The Cabinet Office has today published its cross-government review of public bodies. This impacts on all government departments and Education Secretary Michael Gove has confirmed which of the Department for Education’s (DfE) arm’s length public bodies will close as part of plans to improve accountability, transparency and efficiency. The decisions are set out below.
The following bodies have already been told they are to close (with some essential functions to be taken on by the DfE):
There has been a proliferation of arm’s length public bodies in recent years, with 17 across the education and children’s sectors alone. These organisations are expensive and by removing responsibility from ministers and handing it to unelected officials they reduce accountability. These organisations have done much valuable work, but I believe there are too many of them.
If we are to see a genuine improvement in standards in our schools, it won’t be delivered by people at the centre; it will have to be driven by school leaders and teachers at the frontline. And where there are functions that need to be done at the national level, they should be properly accountable through ministers - unless there are compelling reasons why they cannot be.
The Government acknowledges the fact public servants have worked hard in these bodies and is committed to working with chairs and chief executives to ensure any change is conducted as fairly and smoothly as possible.
The current roles of the mentioned bodies are:
* BECTA - established in 1998 through the reconstitution of the National Council for Educational Technology (NCET). It led the Government’s Harnessing Technology strategy.
* CAFCASS - set up in 2001, its role is to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child. It gives advice to the courts and makes provision for children to be represented.
* CWDC - set up in 2005 to support implementation of the Every Child Matters agenda. Its remit is to improve workforce skills and competences through investment in training and development, and embed integrated working practices across the children and young people’s workforce.
* GTCE - set up in 2000 as an independent self-regulatory professional body for teachers.
* TPIAG - set up in 2000 as the result of a recommendation in the Social Exclusion Unit’s 1999 report on teenage pregnancy that an independent, expert group should monitor the previous Government’s ten-year Teenage Pregnancy Strategy.
* NC - set up in 2000 to transform leadership practice in schools. Since then it has expanded to include the training and development of school business leaders and more recently, directors of children’s services.
* OCC - role was established under the Children Act 2004 to promote the views and interests of children in England. It is a statutory organisation designed to promote children’s interests by exploring and challenging issues from their perspective.
* Ofqual - established as a non-ministerial department by the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learners Act 2009 on 1 April 2010. It is the independent regulator of qualifications and assessment in England, reporting to Parliament.
* Ofsted - established following the 1992 Education (Schools) Act, Ofsted is a non-ministerial government department responsible for the inspection and regulation of schools and colleges; childcare and aspects of children’s social care, including local authority children’s services, adoption and fostering services; and the Children and Family Courts Advisory Support Service (CAFCASS).
* PfS - set up in 2004 as a joint venture between the Department and private sector to achieve value for money in the delivery of school building projects.
* QCDA - established on 1 April 2010 by the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learners Act 2009, which split the former Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) into two: the QCDA and Ofqual.
* SFT - set up in 2005 as the Government’s delivery partner in transforming the quality and uptake of school food. Supports schools and local authorities to comply with regulations on school food standards, and produces guidance, good practice and targeted support.
* SSSNB - established in July 2009 and became a statutory advisory body in January 2010. Its remit is to consider and seek agreement on matters relating to the remuneration and conditions of employment relating to the duties or working time of school support staff in maintained schools in England.
* STRB - established in 1991 as an independent body to examine and report on matters relating to the statutory conditions of employment of school teachers in England and Wales.
* Teachers TV Board of Governors - established in January 2005. Advised DfE on the best practices of a UK public broadcasting service and helped ensure the Teachers TV supplier was held accountable for the public funds it receives.
* TDA - created by the Education Act 2005. Is primarily concerned with securing the supply of the workforce, assuring the quality of initial teacher training and supporting workforce reform.
* YPLA - set up by DfE in April 2010 under the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learners Act 2009. Funds young people’s participation in education and training.
The TTV Board of Governors is no longer required as TTV has moved solely online. It was established to ensure editorial independence, as required by the Ofcom TV broadcast license and the Communications Act 2003.
The remit for the Teenage Pregnancy Independent Advisory Group (TPIAG) comes to an end in December 2010 and will not be renewed or replaced. The Department will be making arrangements for ministers to access expert advice when needed, to help make further progress in reducing teenage pregnancy rates.
British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta): Schools professionals are best placed to make many decisions about their school’s ICT requirement. Where functions need to be retained centrally - for example to ensure good value for money for schools in procuring technology or to protect support for those with special needs - this is currently being arranged by the Department.
Abolition of the General Teaching Council for England (GTCE’s) is part of the Government’s wider plans to streamline and improve arrangements for tackling underperforming teachers.
The Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency (QCDA) will be abolished but the Government is committed to ensuring some activities, such as National Curriculum tests, continue to be delivered.
The following reviews are underway:
* The Department’s workforce bodies (TDA, NC and CWDC) are under Departmental review. We are considering how their key functions will best be exercised in the future.
* YPLA is also under Departmental review as part of the wider work on education structural reforms.
* PfS is being reviewed as part of the Department’s review of all capital investment in schools, Early Years, colleges and sixth forms, which is being led by Sebastian James, Group Operations Director of DSG International plc. The review team includes Kevin Grace, Tesco - Director of Property Services; Barry Quirk, Chief Executive of Lewisham Council; John Hood, former Vice-Chancellor of University of Oxford; and Sir John Egan, former Chief Executive of Jaguar and BAA. The review was launched 12 July. The call for evidence was issued 6 August and closed on 17 September. A forward plan for capital investment during the next spending review period will be produced by the end of the calendar year.
* OCC: On 12 July the Secretary of State announced that an independent review of the role and office of the OCC is to be carried out by John Dunford, recently retired General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders. He will consider the powers, remit and function of the commissioner in his review as well as the impact the post has made to date. John Dunford will have made his recommendations to the Secretary of State by the end of November 2010.
* CAFCASS is being reviewed as part of the Family Justice Review (FJR), which is considering the whole of the family justice system. The FJR began work in March 2010 and formally launched its call for evidence in June 2010. The review panel is independently chaired by David Norgrove, Chair of the Pensions Regulator and the Low Pay Commission, and includes a senior family judge, a director of children’s services, a lead member for children’s services, a senior colleague from the voluntary sector, the Welsh Children’s Commissioner, and a director from both this Department and the Ministry of Justice. The review panel will then provide an interim report in March 2011, which will include a steer on the future of CAFCASS and be the subject of public consultation. The review panel will publish its final report in September 2011.
* SSSNB: The Secretary of State is yet to make a final decision on the future of the SSSNB. A further announcement will be made in due course following discussions between the Secretary of State and the SSSNB’s Independent Chair, and support staff employer and trade union member representatives.
School Food Trust (SFT): The Government is committed to ensuring pupils can eat healthy, nutritious school food. The School Food Trust has developed significant expertise around the school food agenda throughout the past five years and continues to have an important role in supporting schools and local authorities to meet the nutritional standards. As a community interest company (CIC), the trust will continue to be able to play that role and to provide advice to the Government, which is informed by the practical work it does out in the field. It will also have the freedom to sell its services - advice, guidance, research - to local authorities, schools, caterers and others, on a commercial basis. CICS are limited companies with special additional features, created for use by people who want to conduct a business or other activity for community benefit and not purely for private advantage. This is achieved by a “community interest test” and “asset lock”, which ensures the CIC is established for community purposes and the assets and profits dedicated to these purposes. Registration of a company as a CIC has to be approved by the regulator, who also has a continuing monitoring and enforcement role. We expect SFT will continue to take forward a number of activities for the Department. The level of future DfE support for the trust depends on the spending review outcome and the tasks SFT is asked to undertake for the DfE.
Some essential functions of the arm’s length bodies that are to be closed will be transferred to DfE. Further details of this will be available in due course.