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.


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