We’re used to Department for Education spokesmen (or women) trotting out clichés about sponsored academies, academy freedoms, academy improvement rates ad nauseam.But one spokesman, commenting on the possibility of a Lords rebellion over Government plans to make academization easier, seems to have gone too far:
‘The Labour Party just doesn’t understand our commitment to making sure no child has to spend a day longer than necessary at a failing school. The measures in this Bill will ensure all children have the same chance to fulfil their potential, extend opportunity and bring real social justice to our country.’This is more like a politician’s soundbite than a comment from a supposedly independent government department.
The Civil Service Code
, which binds all civil servants, has these four values enshrined: impartiality, honesty, integrity and objectivity.
But the comment above is neither impartial nor objective. It’s also dishonest because the ‘measures’ in the Education and Adoption Bill are based on the false premise that converting to an academy especially with a sponsor is the only way to improve schools.
But that’s no so. The National Audit Office found informal interventions such as local support were more effective than formal interventions such as academization. Henry Stewart’s analyses for this site show how sponsored academies do no better than similar non academies and may actually do worse. And yet academy conversion is being promoted as the only way to ‘ensure all children have the same chance to fulfil their potential…’
It’s possible, of course, that the DfE spokesman isn’t a civil servant at all but someone else supposedly speaking on behalf of the Department. If this is so, it should be made clear if it’s, say, a special adviser or a junior minister. But when a comment attacking an opposition party is made by a departmental spokesperson, it gives the impression that the comment is the view of the department as a whole. And that’s against the Civil Service Code.
There’s an interesting comment under an article on the Civil Service blog
(25 November 2015) which expresses concern about ‘the seepage of political content into Departmental documentation.’
This ‘seepage’ appears to be spreading to departmental comments to the media. This is how the spokesman ended his comment:
‘Rather than being on the side of young people and their parents, this demonstrates yet again that Labour will prioritise their own vested interests, rather than focusing on raising standards in failing schools.’
It’s a comment worthy of Gove. Anyone who opposes Government plans for education is painted as being against ‘young people and their parents’, ‘enemies of promise’, the Blob. It’s a blanket smear against all opposition however well-argued (one might say – especially when it’s well-argued).This kind of black-and-white simplification can be expected from politicians but attacks on opposition parties should not be coming from departmental spokesmen – it’s against the Civil Service Code.