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Thursday 20 December 2012

NUT uncovers suspicious web of Academy advisers

NUT raises concerns about DfE education adviser contracts and potential conflicts of interests

The NUT released a press release today stating that the Union believes there is evidence that a number of individuals who have been employed by the Department for Education (DfE) as a contracted Education Adviser to work as academy brokers or on other activities related to the academies and free schools programme may have conflicts of interests arising from other employment as Ofsted inspectors, links to academy chains or sponsors or because of other DfE contracts and activities to which they are connected.

Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:

“It is quite unacceptable that a number of people are making a lot of money out of work within the Department for Education that is solely driven by the Government’s obsession with turning more and more schools into academies.

“Contractors such as these Education Advisers are being paid for work that includes cajoling schools into academy status, ensuring that they accept a particular academy sponsor or related activities supporting the delivery of the Government’s academy and free school programme.

“In some cases these individuals have connections to the schools’ inspectorate Ofsted or to academy chains that give rise to serious concern about their impartiality and objectivity. Contracts such as these represent a deterioration of the public service ethos in the administration of Government policy. Instead of professional civil servants, Government departments, and the Education Department in particular, are increasingly relying on hired hands to deliver their policies. These contractors lack the accountability set down in civil service codes and make their money from accumulating contracts for a variety of paid services, be it school inspection, academy sponsorship or consultancy work. There is a lack of oversight and insufficient regard given to where these functions may conflict. Michael Gove has fundamentally failed to oversee where there might be a conflict of interest. This is a very dangerous direction for a Government to be going.

“It is simply wrong that hard working school leaders, teachers and governors who support schools in a voluntary capacity are being bullied and cajoled into turning their schools into academies and stigmatised with the label that they are ‘failing’ when in practice the values and judgements of the people making these decisions have motives which are suspect to say the least.

“Once public services are run for profit the user is inevitably put second and we lose entirely the public service ethos. It has to be remembered this is tax payer’s money and should be spent for the public good not be squandered on a whole range of private consultants being brought in to run functions which should be provided by the DfE.

“Michael Gove should terminate these contracts, call a halt to the forced academy programme and return to the Department for Education its function of supporting all schools, whatever their status. We also need to see a return to the Education Department being run by professional civil servants, not cowboy operators out to make a fast buck.”

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