GOVE AND THE REFORM OF QUANGOS
Two cheers on Quango reforms
Michael Gove made it clear in the debate on the Queens speech (2 June) that he wants resources on the front line, in the classroom, raising attainment.
He claimed that teachers do not want resources “spent on the bureaucratic bodies that have for too long siphoned money from where it needs to be spent”.
He has already announced that he will abolish three education quangos, Becta, the QCDA and the GTC . Others may follow and we know, for sure, that the FE sector will see the loss of quangos too. The influential 157 Group of leading FE Colleges in a plea to new Ministers called for:
‘The abolition of quangos, retaining only the essential regional and national functions in a simplified and minimal structure that enables colleges to carry out critical functions such as accreditation, peer review and continual improvement themselves.’
Remaining quangos will suffer significant cuts.
Rationalisation of the quangocracy is long overdue, so Goves efforts should be welcomed. But there needs to be a cultural change within the education quangocracy and this requires even more draconian action.
More often than not they prefer to measure their inputs rather than their outputs so with little or no evaluation of their effectiveness. When leading the opposition David Cameron, instructed shadow spokesmen to look at all the quangos in the departments they were shadowing and find out which ones were essential and which weren’t. Did this review find that that the NCSL and TDA are absolutely essential to learners? I think not. And what about the SSAT too.
Some of the work it has done has been good. But quite a lot has been wasteful too. Funding Headteachers to swan off to Mauritius in the midst of a recession to learn about global citizenship typifies the arrogance of an organisation out of touch with the shifting political and economic landscape and the new imperatives.
It should be subject to the Freedom of Information Act, rather than shielding itself behind its charity status. The last Government agreed that Academies should be subject to the Freedom of Information Act, so allowing more public disclosure, and so they should. But so too should the quango that is responsible for supporting them, the SSAT. It is secretive about how it rewards its executives and whether its programmes are working or not. And why is the private sector not allowed to bid for some contracts in support of Academies?
More generally what about quangos lack of accountability and transparency? What about unfair competition? Which ones are delivering value for money and ‘public Value’ and which arent? Nobody knows. Indeed what about the salaries and expense accounts of their senior executives ? And indeed what about the Nolan principles? Are they being applied? Apparently not, in many instances. The Government, and Gove in particular, have got off to a good start but the drive for greater accountability, transparency and value for money must continue, to ensure that resources get to the chalk face rather than being used to sustain a bloated bureaucracy, still even now, exhibiting a fierce sense of entitlement.