Crisis of Confidence at DfE within months of Coalition taking power

Janet Downs's picture
It’s been a bad week for the Department for Education.  First, the email saga is not going away.  And now an official survey conducted in autumn 2010 reveals that civil servants working in the DfE were already unhappy.  Less than a quarter thought that recent changes in the Department were “usually for the better”, and only 41% felt that change was managed well, the TES revealed today.  In short, the confidence of DfE civil servants fell in 11 out of 13 categories in the few months since the Coalition took power.

A union spokesman, who was employed in the DfE but wished to remain anonymous, told the TES that there was a climate of fear at the DfE, and the spokesman predicted that this year’s survey being conducted now would reveal even greater dissatisfaction with the department.  He said that “about 160 people have been shunted on to academies and free schools without being consulted.”  And the evidence-based policy, much-touted before the election, had been abandoned: “it has been a case of ‘we are going to do this’ without there necessarily being the evidence to support it.”

A DfE spokesperson denied that policy wasn’t underpinned by evidence and cited the “extensive research from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development)”.  But OECD evidence is ignored when it doesn’t match Mr Gove’s ideology:  the statement that the 2000 PISA figures can’t be used for comparison, the warning about excess emphasis on exam grades in England, the evidence that the best-performing school systems are the most equitable.  Or it is cherry-picked: Mr Gove used the OECD remarks that the free schools/academies policy would increase user-choice but ignored the qualifications: that evidence about the effect of user-choice on educational outcomes was mixed, and the policy would need to be monitored to ensure it didn’t impact negatively on those who were already disadvantaged.

The survey confirms what many have been saying on this site for months: that the DfE is dysfunctional. If it were subject to Ofsted inspection it would be rated inadequate and placed in special measures.  If it were a school it would be slated for the quality of its management.
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JimC's picture
Sat, 24/09/2011 - 08:46

If you are interested in trying to get any teachers aside from Francis Gilbert to join in with your crusade you'd be well advised to leave OFSTED out of your rhetoric as they are pretty much hated by anyone who gives a shit.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 24/09/2011 - 09:38

Eloquently spoken, JimC. I do apologise - I thought it was obvious that the reference to Ofsted was deeply ironic. It's a pity there isn't some signal which indicates the use of irony. The rhetoric which pours from the DfE slates "underperforming" schools even when the Education Endowment Fund found that many schools which failed to meet benchmarks were doing a good job in difficult circumstances. But here we have a survey, undertaken by the National Audit Office last year, which shows deep dissatisfaction inside the DfE within months of the Coalition taking power. This year's survey is predicted to show even worse staff morale. Such lack of leadership would, if the survey were an Ofsted inspection (loathed by teachers, but lauded by Gove), result in the senior management being replaced. I think many teachers would find this rather amusing and not off-putting at all.

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