Department for Education (DfE) overtime payments rocketed by nearly 40 per cent between September and November, it has been revealed.

According to workforce management information published by the DfE, overtime payments for the period went from £37,437 £51,729. It comes after the DfE’s overall full-time equivalent (FTE) staff numbers fell to 2,187 in November, down from 2,298 in the same period in 2013.

It also follows a reduction in spending by the DfE on agency staff — from £341,739 in August to £254,945 in November — and consultants, which fell from more than £280,000 in September to £66,112 in November.

Kathy Prendiville, an industrial officer with the PCS union, said: “It is hardly surprising that, having cut the department by nearly 50 per cent over the last four years, we find overtime increasing.

“This, alongside consultancy and agency costs, which are still too high, merely masks what is essentially an under-resourced department, all in the name of austerity.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “Since 2010, we have delivered huge savings for the taxpayer, reducing administration costs by £120m a year. Staff numbers have fallen by 40 per cent over the same period.”