Nine Lies

Ok, enough is enough.

In response to an ASCL report today on school funding, which highlighted the difficulties in school funding, the DfE released this statement:

“We do not recognise these figures and they come from a sample of just two per cent of all school business leaders. There are no cuts in funding. In fact, by 2020 core school funding will rise to a record £43.5 billion, the highest ever and 50% more per pupil in real terms than in 2000 – and we have 15,500 more teachers in our classroom than in 2010.

“We trust schools to manage their own budgets but are offering support to help them get the most out of every pound they spend – and latest figures show that schools hold surpluses of more than £4 billion.”

Two paragraphs. Four sentences. One hundred and thirty one words.

So, lets go…

“We do not recognise these figures…”.    

This is just standard politicians speak for “Yeah, we know what you are saying is true but we can’t possibly admit to it so I’m going to be pedantic and say I don’t recognise it as I’ve never seen it written exactly that way before. So I’m telling the truth, but essentially I’m misleading you. I know it, you know it, but lets play the game.”

“…and they come from a sample of just two per cent of all school business leaders.”

Yep, another truth. But lets look at a comparison. A large sample for a UK General Election poll would be around 2,000 people. That’s a sample of 0.004% of the population being studied. Or the General Election Exit poll (which has proved very reliable) is around 15,000 people, or ) 0.03% of the population. To get anywhere near the same relative size as the ASCL survey a national poll would have to have surveyed around 930,000 people.

So I think we can agree that the DfE is relying here on the ignorance of the reader rather than trying to improve their level of knowledge.

“There are no cuts in funding.”

And herein lies the crux of the issue. In cash terms this may well be correct (although not for every individual school). But even the ungendered humanoid on the Clapham omnibus recognises that discussing funding without costs is meaningless, especially when many of the costs have been deliberately imposed by the same government saying there are no cuts. National Insurance Increases. Pension cost increases. Apprentice Levies. All additional costs imposed by the government with no increase in funding to offset it. To my simple KPMG trained accountants’ mind an imposed increase in costs is exactly the same as a decrease in funding. As Spock would say, “A difference which makes no difference isn’t a difference at all”.

“In fact, by 2020 core school funding will rise to a record £43.5 billion…”

Yeah, bruv, but that’s what is going to happen in the future. It doesn’t speak to funding cuts that have occurred. And don’t forget, the DfE are already preparing the ground for some schools not receiving the full benefit of Fair Funding, getting their blame in early on the beastly Local Authorities.

“…the highest ever and 50% more per pupil in real terms than in 2000…”

If you can imagine the following paragraph, but with an expletive every other word you’ll be getting somewhere close to how it was originally written.

Image-1

Look at this chart. Can you see why they have chosen 2000? And not chosen 2011, when their own budgets were in place? I am lost for words to describe the kind of cynically mendacious mind that would say such a thing and think they deserved to be believed. And you know the real problem? I have yet to hear anyone really call them out for this.

“…and we have 15,500 more teachers in our classroom than in 2010.”

There are 590,000 more students in classrooms since 2010. To keep a student teacher ratio of 1:30 you would have to have had an additional 19,666 teachers. So boasting about an additional 15,500 is rather silly. Basically they’re pointing out a cut in the number of teachers of 4,000.

And so we arrive at the second paragraph.

“We trust schools to manage their own budgets…”

Which is why you require them to upload their budgets to you twice a year…no, wait, that’s not the reason is it. It’s because your own accounts have been qualified for the past six years.

Yes, I know that’s a bit gratuitous, but I’m sure you can understand by now how much this lying irritates me.

“…but are offering support to help them get the most out of every pound they spend …”

Ah yes, forty-odd people to advise 24,000 schools. Look, I don’t want to harp on the KPMG trained accountant thing again (not least because Nick Gibb is also one), but I was also Group FD of a company that had offices in seven countries and I’ve worked for the past 23 years in education. And I’ll tell you this. Anyone who thinks they can go into a school cold and tell them how to run their finances has a really well developed sense of their own worth.

And finally…

“and latest figures show that schools hold surpluses of more than £4 billion.”

At a really simple level, £4bn surpluses, £43bn income, that’s about the right level of reserves for a the sector to be holding. It’s around 9%. Charities commission recommends about 8%. I’d prefer to see 10%. But that’s not the point either. The reserves that individual schools hold range from minus 10% to a lot more than 9%. They’re spread like a layer of very crunchy peanut butter. That’s been applied by a three-year old. With a ladle.

I shouldn’t have to be writing this. Every media outlet that carries the statement should be ripping it to shreds. Should be pointing out how misleading it is. Carrying the statement without comment is not balanced reporting, it is being complicit in a web of lies.

But the full opprobrium needs to fall on the DfE here.

In summary, this is a statement designed to mislead. To deliberately mislead. What a state we are in when the first thought of the Department for Education is to mislead rather than inform.

Two paragraphs. Four sentences. One hundred and thirty one words.

Nine lies.

Count them.

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2 thoughts on “Nine Lies

  1. […] Yet every time someone complains that funding for schools is insufficient, the government trots out its mantra: ‘there is more money for schools than ever before’. With a sustained increase in pupil numbers, we’d hope so – but the sector knows it is not enough to cover all the cost pressures. Blogger Mike Cameron has dissected the DfE’s response to the ASCL survey in a post entitled ‘Nine Lies’ which you can read here. […]

  2. Brilliant. We need more people to speak plainly with facts like this to expose the DfE lies. I’ve been trying too, in blogs at https:/school financial success.com. This coming Monday, I’m sharing my thoughts on the questions the Education Select Committee is posing in its inquiry on school and college funding. Closing date is end of May. I will be showing the results of some analysis I have done, which I haven’t seen anywhere else, around the actual per pupil changes in the National Funding Formula.

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