Education cuts impact on quangos

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As part of a package of £6.25bn cuts across Whitehall, the chancellor, George Osborne, has announced more than £300m in savings from four- to 19-year-olds' education. It  includes £80m in cuts from 'quangos' and the abolishing of Becta and the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency.

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, said work currently carried out by the QCDA would be handed to other organisations, including private exam boards.

The QCDA currently reviews exams such as A-levels, GCSE and diplomas, as well as controlling the administration of Sats tests for 11-year-olds. It is also responsible for updating the curriculum.

In a letter to the QCDA's chair, Christopher Trinick, Gove said: "I appreciate that the news of closure will come as a disappointment to those working in the QCDA… While the QCDA as an organisation does not have a place in the education system of the future, I know that the agency has many dedicated public servants who are committed to improving the quality of education in this country."

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “The seemingly arbitrary way in which the QCDA and other bodies are being culled without any critical analysis of the impact of removing these functions is not acceptable.

“To put staff at the QCDA on notice of dismissal before the legislation to remove their function has been considered by Parliament is an arrogant and reckless way to conduct Government business.

“The decision is not supported by any detail of how core functions undertaken by the QCDA will be carried out in future and at what cost.”

Becta said it is "very disappointed" at the government's decision to close the organisation.

Becta's chief executive Stephen Crowne and chairman Graham Badman said, "Naturally we are very disappointed at the government's decision. Becta is a very effective organisation with an international reputation, delivering valuable services to schools, colleges and children. Our procurement arrangements save the schools and colleges many times more than Becta costs to run. Our Home Access programme will give laptops and broadband to over 200,000 of the poorest children.

 "The main priority now is to make sure we have an orderly and fair process for staff, and that as far as possible schools, colleges and children continue to benefit from the savings and support that Becta has provided. We will be talking to government departments and our other stakeholders including the industry about this."

The organisation is in the middle of its Fit for the Future programme, with the tender process for technology partners being accelerated earlier this year. It would have seen the agency work with the technology industry to identify the main IT-related challenges the education sector will face over the coming years, such as making use of data and the technology skills of teachers. The contract award notice was due to be issued in May or June.

There will also be £16m saved from the National College for Leadership of Schools and Children's Services, which tries to improve the quality of headteachers, while £15m will be cut from the Children's Workforce Development Council, which speaks for people who work with children.

The Training and Development Agency for Schools, which trains teachers, will lose £30m, mainly affecting its marketing and recruitment activities. The budget for the School Food Trust, which tries to improve the quality of school dinners, will be cut by £1m.

Chris Keates said: "A bonfire of the quangos is based on flawed assumptions and may not deliver the level of savings or value for money the chancellor is seeking.

"Hundreds of millions of pounds have already been saved as a result of the work of a number of education quangos which would not otherwise have been achieved by leaving individual schools to their own devices. The chancellor has failed to recognise that quangos are not all bad. Some of the organisations whose funding has today been slashed are better placed than individual schools on their own to achieve the value for money the government craves."

John Dunford, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "As we face a tougher funding climate in the next few years, the government's top priority for education funding must be to get the maximum amount into the core budgets of schools and colleges, where it will have the greatest impact on young people. Only in this way will frontline institutions be able to afford the staff and equipment necessary to raise education standards further. All education expenditure outside school and college budgets must continue to be rigorously reviewed against this priority."

In response to a further announcement by Michael Gove  that the General Teaching Council for England (GTCE) is also to be abolished, Chris Keates, said: “I have absolutely no doubt that the Secretary of State’s decision will be warmly welcomed by teachers across the country.

“I have frequently said that if the GTCE was abolished tomorrow few would notice and even less would care.

“For years, the NASUWT has been warning the GTCE that it was failing to gain the respect and confidence of the profession or to act appropriately in the public interests.

“Too much time, energy and resource has been frittered away on pursuing projects and issues which duplicated the work of other bodies and did little or nothing to enhance the status of the profession.

“The GTCE’s recently revised Code of Conduct and Practice was largely unworkable. Over 30,000 teachers signed the NASUWT petition for its withdrawal.

“The NASUWT consistently urged the GTCE to focus on its regulatory function but recently even its ability to exercise that responsibly was thrown into question by its decision not to sanction British National Party (BNP) member, Adam Walker, for racist activity. This may well have sealed its fate.

“At the NASUWT Conference in April this year there was unanimous support for a motion calling for the abolition of the GTCE.

“The Government appears to be abolishing the body, not its statutory functions. Urgent discussions, therefore, are now needed about how these functions will be discharged properly in future.

“Decisions about a teacher’s future career as a result of a disciplinary or competence sanction imposed by employers cannot and must not be left to the determination of individual schools. A robust, clear, fair and transparent procedure is needed.”