Babies and Bathwater

I’m sure many of us have read about the planned closure of many government quangos (this weird word means a group set up by the government which has some delegated power, see Wikipedia) with delight. The loss of some of the more annoying functions of, for example, the GTCE, is hardly a problem. It is, however, worth looking at the list (see the Telegraph for their leaked list) with reference to education. Many of them have positive as well as negative effects, so we can only hope that the more useful functions will be preserved.

The following list is the result of my quick scan of the Telegraph’s article. Apologies for any mistakes, omissions or over-simplifications – please let me know if you spot any.

  • The British Educational and Communications Technology Agency (BECTA) has for years promoted the use of new technology in an educational context. As usual with something like this, it offers economies of scale at the expense of wide choice. In many ways it could be argued that now schools have ‘in-house’ expertise.
  • The General Teaching Council of England (GTCE) administers a list of those teachers able to work in state schools. They have been fairly unpopular with teachers since the start.
  • The Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency (QCDA) coordinates the qualifications offered with what is taught in schools. (It is perhaps interesting that reversing the effective privatisation of the exams themselves has not been suggested.)
  • The School Food Trust is theoretically responsible for the use or avoidance of Turkey Twizzlers. How this will affect the provision of school lunches is yet to be seen.
  • The School Support Staff Negotiating Body does what it says on the tin. As well as whole-school staff (admin, teaching assistants etc) this is particularly relevant to science departments who have lab technicians as part of the team.
  • The demise of the Teachers TV Board was a logical step since they moved from a broadcast to a web-only service. Presumably the website will continue – perhaps I should do my bit by trying to use it more…

Other groups are still ‘under review’:

  • The National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services (NCSL as was) coordinates the Headship qualifications among others. Although I haven’t seen anything online about this I wonder if it means universities will be asked to take on some version of the qualifications – perhaps as some variant of a Masters in Education degree?
  • The main role of the Partnership for Schools seems to be BSF, so it’s hardly surprising they are under threat.
  • Remploy offers support and guidance, as well as some advocacy, to those in employment with complex disabilities including learning difficulties. They fulfil a similar role to the Shaw Trust, and like several of the organisations here we may see charities taking over some of the more pressing functions of deceased quangos.
  • Seeing the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) on the list is quite a surprise. Their main role – organising and overseeing teacher training and recruitment – is growing rather than diminishing, as we work harder to recruit ‘good graduates’ to the profession.
  • The Young People’s Learning Agency (YPLA) coordinates post-16 provision, as well as academies and EMA. Much as I would love to believe that academies will be no more I suspect it is more that the DofE will just take over that responsibility, seeing them as the norm rather than the horrendous aberration they really represent.

As well as these, several of the science groups listed seem to me to fill very necessary roles. The Health Protection Agency is an obvious example. I don’t want to make a political point as I’ve stayed away from those kinds of posts, but the groups I have listed above don’t strike me as exclusively ones we won’t miss. Let’s not get rid of useful features in our happiness to wave goodbye to the GTCE.

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