Nick Seaton of the Campaign for Real Education welcomes a call for the axe to fall on school quangos.
It is hoped and planned that a new pamphlet published today by the Centre for Policy Studies will be the first of many on the same theme. There is certainly plenty of scope and there are billions of taxpayers' pounds to be saved with little effect on front-line public services.
School quangos: An agenda for abolition and reform by Tom Burkard and Sam Talbot Rice considers the costs and benefits of 11 quangos concerned with schools. The authors calculate that by
abolishing some and reducing the unnecessary duties of others, around £633m could be saved out of their annual costs of £1,183m.
Four examples taken at random from the pamphlet:
The Training and Development Agency (TDA) is the quango responsible for teacher recruitment and training. In 2007-08, 'there were 38,000 initial teacher trainees. Each one cost the taxpayer
almost £15,600 – but only 27,700 (73%) became teachers. In other words, £160 million was wasted on candidates who never teach.'
The National College for School Leadership's 'grant-in-aid from the government has increased from £27.9m in 2002 to £83.3m in 2007-08…Over the same period, the number of staff has gone up from 58 to 248.' In 2002, staff costs were £2.3m. In 2008, they had increased five-fold to £11.5m. Yet 'the organisation has failed to resolve the difficulties of recruiting headteachers.' (If anything, the problem is getting worse.)
Staff costs at the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (BECTA), the quango responsible for promoting technology/computers in schools, were £3.9m in 2003. In 2008, they had increasedmore than four-fold to £16.7m.
Partnerships for Schools (PfS) shares responsibility for the government's academies and Building Schools for the Future programmes. A recent Public Accounts Committee report criticised PfS for having 'wasted public money by relying on consultants to make up for the shortfalls in its own skills and resources.' PfS has also been accused of 'bullying local authorities', 'empire building' and 'mission creep'.
All the quangos examined in this study come under the umbrella of the Department for Children, Schools and Families. And the authors point out that the Cabinet Office claims that overall, quangos consume around £34bn of taxpayers' money each year. However, a more credible report from the Taxpayers' Alliance suggests that the true figure is perhaps £64bn. Either way, these are very significant amounts.
School quangos provides key information in easily digestible form. Though quangos give 'the impression that something is being done to solve the political problem of the day', the evidence here suggests that they increase costs and bureaucracy, whilst offering little in the way of benefits.
With information like this, how many taxpayers would regret their demise?