DfE causing the most concern for Public Accounts Committee chair

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is a cross-party committee of the House of Commons which looks across all government departments and “scrutinises the value for money […] of public spending and generally holds the government and its civil servants to account for the delivery of public services”.

It is therefore of particular significance that the chair of the PAC, Ms Meg Hillier, has outlined in her foreword to the Fourth Annual Report of the Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts that “the Department for Education [DfE] now tops … [her] … departments of concern”. Explaining the reasons why, she focuses on the “financial strain on schools” and, despite the fact that the DfE and Ofsted have not explained how funding shortages are impacting upon education provision, Ms Hillier outlined deep concern at the recent reports of schools reducing their hours and evidence from the Education Select Committee in which numerous “teachers’ unions and professional bodies described the funding situation, including capital funding cuts, as a crisis”.

Beyond school funding, Ms Hillier also raised issues with the DfE’s financial oversight of academy trusts; an area, she outlined, which needed to be improved particularly in the wake of “a succession of high-profile academy failures that have damaged children’s education and been costly for the taxpayer”.