Alert: Education Funding Agency in Trouble
The Education Funding Agency (EFA), the body responsible for managing the funding of free schools and public academic institutions for the Department of Education may be in trouble. According to the National Audit Office (NAO), the EFA is in over its head in management projects—as well as costs.
They’ve had a 50% increase in workload and a need for a 15% decrease in costs. The NAO says that there is a need for a re-work in strategy: instead of making schools dependent on the EFA, they should instead be taught how to manage their finances on their own. More than managing monetary matters for schools, the EFA’s job has to soon become simply to teach schools how to do it themselves. Otherwise, the NAO warns, the agency’s reputation and finances will suffer because they will be shouldering too many responsibilities than their budget and competencies can handle.
Already, the agency faces two scandalous encounters with free schools that have complained about the mismanagement of the officials in charge of the project. In addition to this, they have also been accused of faulty accounting and mishandling of funds.
The NAO adds that the Department of Education is mostly to blame for this mishap—they were not able to sufficiently specify the EFA’s role in budget management. Thus, the agency has become overburdened with unreachable goals. Furthermore, the Department of Education has failed to equip the EFA for their increased workload.
On the upside, the NAO report acknowledged that the EFA did fairly well in their first year (hence, the additional work assigned to them) and that it was a good idea to establish the agency. They also commended the EFA for responding vigilantly to the growth in number of free academies.
In response to the NAO report, the Department of Education claims that new systems have been put in place at the EFA—precisely to avoid the mishaps which have taken place in the past and to cope with the sudden demand. Furthermore, they claim that the EFA was able to decrease unnecessary schooling costs by 35%.
However the NAO accounts that of the EFA’s 7,900 clients (equivalent to 10 million students) to whom the EFA was able to distribute more than 51 billion pounds, only 36% rated their service as excellent.
They conclude the report by maintaining that the agency has done a good job thus far and is doing well at maintaining daily operations. However, there is still a lot to be done if they are to maintain operations effectively and efficiently, long term.
Among the needs they need to address are the filling of key posts (which they have had trouble with because of the aforementioned budget constraints) and increasing competence in technical fields (IT and construction, in particular).
They also failed to meet their own proposed time table for conducting public school surveys for 2013 due to faulty management. The NAO stresses that the EFA needs to do better than this if it is to survive.