The Guardian has given us a sneak preview of where the Lib-Con cost-cutting axe is going to fall but a lot of questions remain unanswered.
Of the proposed cuts, I find it hard to get too emotional about the prospect of Teachers TV coming to an end (as a project I mean – lots of sympathy for anyone losing their job). I used to flick through their website when I was training and there’s some nice ideas to be found, but I’d be hard-pressed to think of the times I’ve used it now I’m teaching.
You could also make a case, I suppose, for the School Food Trust being wound-down, but what would Jamie Oliver say? Becta – the agency which promotes ICT innovation in schools – looks like it’s on the hit-list too. A shame; in my experience teachers who have worked with them have always come back buzzing with ideas.
Cuts to the clunkily-named, but ‘does what it says on the tin’, ‘Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency’ (QCDA) are more interesting. Somebody, somewhere needs to organise examinations – and the qualifications that go with them; presumably, then, the ‘Q’ bit will be rolled into the Department for Education centrally. However, cuts to the QCDA give a clear signal that centrally driven curriculum reform is coming to an end. Jim Rose’s review – which my school have adopted with great gusto – looks like it’s going to be parked and then scrapped.
The rhetoric from the Lib-Cons is that curriculum will be the responsibility of schools so, what follows, is that the ‘Curriculum’ bit of QCDA can go. While lots of teachers resented the relentless central directives about what should be taught, when it should be taught and for how long, it’s fanciful to say that all the curriculum functions of the QCDA can simply disappear. Can schools really plan their curriculum in a vacuum, without any kind of central repository of information or guidance? The leap from a centralised system to a localised one (whether you think this is a good or bad move) needs sensible management and transition time. So, this is either a recipe for much chaos or it could simply mean a bureaucratic-shuffle, moving bodies from quango to Gove’s Education HQ.
What’s clear from all this is that there are very few easy wins when it comes to cost-cutting. Departments have already offered up their least-favoured and least-successful projects, so the focus now must shift to the more-favoured and more-successful ones. The Building Schools for the Future funding has already been halted. The real question, though, is: what else? To get anywhere near the £6billion extra cuts the Lib-Cons have planned this year, it’ll take more than a shuffling of functions. The truth is – we ain’t seen nothing yet!