Since 2008, departmental select committees have had a formal role in the appointment process of some designated public posts which fall under the remit of their respective Government departments.
The term of office of the current OFQUAL Chief Regulator, Glenys Stacey, came to an end in February 2016. Amanda Spielman, the respected Chair, has been in charge in the transition ,as the stand in chief regulator . Following its evidence session, the Education Select Committee will publish a report of its opinion on the government’s preferred candidate, Sally Collier’s suitability for the role. Its expected to give her the nod.
Sally Collier is the government’s choice as new head of Ofqual, She has been CEO of the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) the Cabinet Office agency responsible for government purchasing. Her qualifications and experience for this new job are not obvious. Her expertise lies in procurement not in qualifications or anything to do with education . Critics of the CCS , under her, and there are many, say it has failed to move with the changing times and that it persists with old-fashioned, commodity-oriented practices no longer appropriate in a world where agility and flexibility are required. . “They are perhaps the last and least-forward thinking people in government,” said one source to Computer Weekly recently. There are legitimate concerns over the significant rises in staff costs and budgets at the Crown Commercial Service, also known by some who have dealt with it as “A Procurement Organisation on Steroids”. There are also continuing allegations that it has favoured large companies ( the likes of Capita, for example ) rather than SME’s. The Cabinet Office, remember, is supposed to have been promoting more procurement with SMEs.
The world of qualifications and their regulation is complex and challenging, some might say byzantine, and needs a safe pair of hands. Ofqual has been widely criticised for delays in its accreditation of new GCSEs and A levels. Ministers are seeking to lay the blame at the door of the exam boards for not producing high quality specifications quickly enough, although the boards have their own story to tell. Collier’s appointment could signal that it is the government’s intention to develop a new model for Ofqual, focusing much more on the procurement side. Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, said, significantly, “ Sally has significant experience in the complex environment of public procurement and in leading and managing large teams through periods of significant change “. But if Ofqual is in future going to resemble a procurement organisation more than just a regulator, many in education will have serious reservations.
If this is the case, it’s worth reminding ourselves of Ofquals goals and objectives (taken from its Development Plan for 2015 to 2018)
Goal 1: Regulating and reforming general qualifications
Objective 1: Regulate for the validity of general qualifications throughout their life cycle.
Objective 2: Oversee the introduction of reformed general qualifications.
Objective 3: Regulate for the validity of National Assessments.
Goal 2: Regulating vocational and other qualifications
Objective 4: Regulate for the validity of vocational and other qualifications throughout their life cycle.
Objective 5: Promote a healthy vocational qualifications market.
Goal 3: Developing our people, resources and systems
Objective 6: Build our capability and capacity.
Objective 7: Invest in better information management to improve the quality and accessibility of information.
Objective 8: Efficient and effective use of resources.
There are two big questions here. Is Collier being brought in to fundamentally change the Ofqual model? And, whether this is the case or not, given the patchy performance record of the CCS and its escalating cost base during her tenure (we still live in austere times remember) is she the right choice as Chief Regulator?