From the TUC

Cuts Watch #10: Cuts in funding for ‘quangos’

24 May 2010, by in Cuts Watch

The term ‘quango‘ is a euphamism – non-departmental public bodies carry out a range of essential work across Government and cuts will have as large an impact on delivery here as they would anywhere else – in areas including education, equalities and regional development.

Today’s announcement suggests that £270 million will be cut from Regional Development agencies. This appears to be part of the £600 million will be cut from ‘quangos’ – with rumours suggesting that organisations including the QCA and the Young Person’s Learning Agency are also in line for severe cuts or abolition and confirmation that the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency BECTA will be closed.

The Chairman and Chief Executive have said:

Becta is a very effective organisation with an international reputation, delivering valuable services to schools, colleges and children. Our procurement arrangements save the schools and colleges many times more than Becta costs to run. Our Home Access programme will give laptops and broadband to over 200,000 of the poorest children.

Update: Other possible cuts include a £1million cut for the School Food Trust, and significant cuts for the QCA (whose future apparently remains under review). PA are also reporting that £16 million is to be cut from the National College, £15 million will be cut from the Children’s Workforce Development Council and that the Training and Development Agency for Schools is losing £30 million from its budget.

We will report here as further detail on the ‘quango’ cuts becomes available.

29 Responses to Cuts Watch #10: Cuts in funding for ‘quangos’

  1. Tweets that mention Cuts Watch #10: Cuts in funding for ‘quangos’ | ToUChstone blog: A public policy blog from the TUC — Topsy.com
    May 25th 2010, 6:26 am

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ToUChstone blog, Kieron Flanagan and TIGMOO, Linda Hughes. Linda Hughes said: Cuts Watch #10: Cuts in funding for ‘quangos’ http://shar.es/mYFdk […]

  2. Seth the pig farmer
    May 25th 2010, 9:36 am

    Quango is not a euphamism but an acronym standing for QUasi Autonomous Non Governmental Organisation.

    A quangocracy could be thought of as a euphamism for the the free loading excesses of the undemocratic self entitled elite who have reduced this country to near insolvancy.

  3. Sceptic
    May 26th 2010, 6:26 pm

    Any chance of Nicola Smith et al learning to spell euphemism? insolvency?

    There are quangos and there are quangos. Some, undoubtedly, provide valuable and necessary services (although the statement of the chairman of one of those to be abolished does not, in itself, provide disinterested evidence of its effectiveness). But it’s hard to see where the value lies in others which remain, so far, untouched.

    There are plenty of quangos in education which could do with the chop or, at the very least, a hefty cull. Granted, they provide employment for bright people to write lengthy research reports stating the blindingly obvious – that keeps them off the streets and out of the classroom, which is only to the good. They pay themselves very well, too, to write and give ‘keynote speeches’ to other quangos and international conferences. But clever people writing clever reports like to boss people around and before you know it an initiative is launched and the poor old foot soldiers have to jump to it. A couple of years later, it’s abandoned when a newer, sexier research report puts forward another answer to old problems. And then you have to start again from scratch.

    Take, for instance, the Institute for Learning, a ‘professional body’ quango which all teachers in the post-16 skills sector are compulsorily obliged to join. Its function, apparently, is to raise the ‘professional standing’ of its members and, to this end, it produces a newsletter full of success stories and pictures of smiling people, chivvies its members to renew their membership each year (or else you can’t teach any more), hustles them to declare their professional development online each year (or else you can’t teach any more), demands that they ‘reflect’ on their learning (you can’t just say you’ve done something, you have to provide evidence of your ‘reflections’ or, guess what, you can’t teach any more) and pays its executive staff astonishing amounts of money. Then it triumphantly announces its wild success in recruitment and professional development (not at all surprising as membership is a condition of employment). The odd thing is this: 16 years ago part-time tutors in further education got paid £20 per direct contact hour. Now a part-time tutor in the same sector gets …………. £20.22 per direct contact hour. And that is how much this quango has improved teachers’ professional standing. So I wouldn’t shed any tears if this quango were to go.

    I can think of plenty of others. The previous government was mad keen on setting up bodies to advise and boss and infantilize people who actually do the work. Can’t we learn to live without some of them? Can’t we be allowed to think for ourselves? Can’t we strive to operate intelligently without someone else telling us what to do?

  4. Nicola Smith

    Nicola
    May 27th 2010, 12:14 pm

    Dear Sceptic – always helpful to be corrected on my spelling! On your wider point there is plenty of evidence that cutting backroom staff increases workload on the front line – many quangos are doing work that will have to be devolved to others it is not done centrally. But I would never argue against real efficiencies – inevitably there will be waste in the public sector (I am not in a position to make a judgement on where), and as a matter of course all governments, in good times and bad, should be seeking to reduce it. But waste alone is not going to allow cuts of the scale being discussed to be made – real programmes, real jobs and real social outcomes will be the price of such sweeping spending reductions.

  5. Sceptic
    May 27th 2010, 1:36 pm

    Dear Nicola – I have no doubt that cutting backroom staff increases workload on the front line in some, indeed many, instances. It is perfectly clear that an efficient support framework allows people to get on with their jobs. But the wider point that I was making via my specific example was that some quangos actually increase the workload for frontline staff and for no good reason. The work that they do does not need to be devolved to others if they are cut – actually it doesn’t need to be done at all. It is entirely unnecessary work and whilst I agree with you that the scale of the cuts ahead of us will have real social outcomes, I do not think it is the case that all cuts are bad. If anything, given the dreadful times ahead, it is the moral responsibility of those of us who are under siege from the peremptory compliance demands of unnecessary quangos to blow the whistle. You say that all governments, in good times and bad, should seek to reduce waste. Well, so should individuals who know, only too painfully, what is going on in their arena of work.

  6. Cuts Watch #22: Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency is cut | ToUChstone blog: A public policy blog from the TUC
    May 30th 2010, 10:31 am

    […] the exam season. The Coventry Telegraph has claimed that, when combined with the jobs to be lost at BECTA, 830 jobs will be lost locally. Related posts (automatically generated):Cuts Watch #10: Cuts in […]

  7. John King
    Jun 3rd 2010, 9:30 pm

    I agree completely with Sceptic’s comments about the Institute for Learning. This useless body does nothing to raise standards and instead adds extra bureaucracy to an FE lecturer’s burden, threatening their livelihood if they do not comply. I’ve nothing against having a professional body to register and regulate the profession, but it must come from within rather than be imposed. (And I’m sure that many middle-aged female members object to being described as a ‘MIfL’ (c.f. ‘MILF’).

  8. Sceptic
    Jun 4th 2010, 3:41 pm

    I note that one quango, the GTC, has gone. Perhaps teachers will be mourning this weekend – but I doubt it. Glad to see from John King’s comment that I am not alone in questioning the value of the Institute for Learning, a quango very much like the GTC. Perhaps its days are numbered. One can only hope.

  9. Josie Williams
    Jun 6th 2010, 1:54 pm

    You and John King are most definitely NOT alone Sceptic. I and many of my FE colleagues hold exactly the same views – we would be overjoyed to see the end of the IFL. Hope indeed!

  10. Sceptic
    Jun 6th 2010, 7:54 pm

    Thank you, Josie and John. You have cheered me up immensely. Check out the IfL’s web site to read the chief executive’s tortuous arguments as to why the IfL can’t be abolished like the GTC because it is not a quango. The previous government compelled teachers to join the IfL as a condition of employment. The government pays most of its members’ fees – so most of the IfL’s money comes from the taxpayer. With government legislation and government money behind it, it is hard to see why the IfL is not a quango.

  11. jw
    Jun 10th 2010, 5:18 pm

    Re all comments on abolishing the Institute for Learning: I agree. If it’s exasperating for full-time adult ed teachers/lecturers to have to log their professional development online, when it’s presumably already been logged via routine staff assessment, it’s just as exasperating for part-time tutors like me. We attend all kinds of extra sessions for which we are not paid; we keep professionally up to date; we have recently had our mileage allowances abolished even though we have to criss-cross the county to teach – and then we encounter the hideous gooiness of the IfL site, full of bubbles, pebbles and reflection spaces, which we do not need and which some consultancy has probably been paid oodles to create. We have to negotiate this nonsense in order to register professional development with an organisation that, so far as I can tell, offers us no support in exchange for taking our unpaid time and the government’s/taxpayers’ money.
    Meanwhile, when calculated on the basis of the actual time devoted to staying up-to-date with our subjects, preparing resources, supporting learners, marking coursework and travelling to teach, the rate per hour is below the minimum wage.
    This is going to become worse in my subject (English) as AQA ‘controlled assessment’ , which replaces coursework, will consititute 60 per cent of the exam marks. And who gets to mark, grade and moderate these assessments? That’s right, teachers. Is AQA shifting responsibility or isn’t it?

  12. Garry H
    Jun 11th 2010, 11:03 am

    Why are the Unions not getting involved with questioning the usefulness of the IfL? Perhaps they are but I have seen no sign of it. I am sure a high profile campaign to get rid of them would meet with popular support and could achieve something tangible that would improve the lot of lecturers at the coal face. Have the IfL actually tried to bar anyone yet from teaching? Surely this is a restraint of trade and as such would be illegal? I have stopped subscribing to the Chartered Institue of Management Accountants but this does not stop me practicing as an accountant. Why should not subscribing to the IfL stop me teaching Accountancy and Finance??

  13. Bob Hayes
    Jun 14th 2010, 9:36 am

    I entirely concur with the criticisms of the Institute for Learning. Its publications and pronouncements exude pious self-congratulation. It claims to be committed to ‘professionalisation’ but remains stubbornly silent about the disgraceful employment terms of part-time staff. Meanwhile, as others have noted, it badgers us into recording elements of our teaching practice as ‘CPD’. The IfL’s ‘vision’ is akin to the King’s New Clothes and its enforcement techniques would make the Kray Twins blush. The sooner the IfL is abolished the better. The teaching unions should be in the forefront of the abolition campaign.

  14. Nicola Smith

    Nicola
    Jun 15th 2010, 1:17 pm

    Gary – if you’re interested in the views of specific teaching unions I suggest contact them directly, ATL, NASUWT and NUT have all been commenting on cuts.

    Nicola

  15. Sceptic
    Jun 15th 2010, 9:03 pm

    I have seen no evidence of union criticism of the IfL although Nicola might put me right. On the whole, my understanding is that the unions support the IfL because of its claim to ‘raise the professional status’ of lecturers/teachers in the FE and Lifelong Learning sector. Part-time teachers, such as jw, might laugh at this claim. Full-time teachers may also feel a certain scepticism. I am in the uncomfortable position of being a manager in the sector. So I don’t teach, I just ‘manage’. Much of my time is spent hassling staff, many of whom are part-time, to renew their IfL membership, declare their CPD to the IfL, meet me for performance management meetings bla bla. Frankly, it’s embarrassing. Most of their time is unpaid. The IfL has made my job a nightmare.

  16. Nicola Smith

    Nicola
    Jun 16th 2010, 5:23 pm

    Sceptic,

    Some further details of how the teaching unions have reacted to cuts is here:

    ATL
    http://www.atl.org.uk/publications-and-resources/report/report-2010/conference-general-secretary-speech.asp

    NASUWT
    http://www.epolitix.com/stakeholder-websites/press-releases/press-release-details/newsarticle/nasuwt-comments-on-bonfire-of-the-quangos///sites/nasuwt/

    NUT
    http://www.teachers.org.uk/node/11621

    But I am sure if you contacted their press offices they would be happy to provide further details.

    Nicola

  17. theo
    Jun 16th 2010, 5:56 pm

    Colleagues and I would wholeheartedly agree with all the comments re-the IfL. The reflect interface and complex nonsense to register (why by e-mail AND post) to gain QTLS (which also strangely blocks access to get on with the paperwork aspect of it during the summer vacation when you might just find the time), is non-intuitive, and a nightmare for those staff who are techno-challenged. Many of my colleagues after the third attempt to log in, or sit for ten minutes for a page to load, just throw up their hands in despair and log out. No one has 30 to spare unpaid, we already have more paperwork than we know what to do with, so why should we desire more to fill in, reflect on, etc. What we do want are equal pay and conditions to school and university teachers, and access to really useful CPD that truly takes our careers forward and gives us a sense of fulfilment. The IfL, even if we might call ourselves a Milf, (sorry, mifl), does none of those things.

  18. Sceptic
    Jun 17th 2010, 10:51 am

    Thank you for your links to the three teaching unions, Nicola. None of these unions refers specifically to the Institute for Learning but all of them have a very critical attitude to other quangos imposed on the teaching force, which rather tends to back up my original point – that far from reducing work for staff on the front line, these bodies increased teachers’ workload. I have read rumours of the imminent demise of the IfL and I sincerely hope that they have some foundation.

  19. Sceptic
    Jun 17th 2010, 12:01 pm

    Gary’s question on June 11th:

    “Why should not subscribing to the IfL stop me teaching Accountancy and Finance??”

    Unfortunately, because there’s a law to stop you doing so:

    http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2007/uksi_20072116_en_1

    Presumably, the only way to get rid of the IfL is to amend these regulations compelling FE/Lifelong Learning teachers to belong to it. Unfortunately, I don’t see how the government can abolish a body which it legally obliges people to join. But presumably, there was similar legislation in place for the GTC. Anybody know?

  20. MarkyD
    Jun 27th 2010, 7:01 pm

    “I’ve nothing against having a professional body to register and regulate the profession, but it must come from within rather than be imposed.”

    It did, it wasn’t.

    “(And I’m sure that many middle-aged female members object to being described as a ‘MIfL’ (c.f. ‘MILF’).”

    I doubt they do, they probably aren’t of the same way of thinking as you.

  21. MarkyD
    Jun 27th 2010, 7:05 pm

    “On the whole, my understanding is that the unions support the IfL because of its claim to ‘raise the professional status’ of lecturers/teachers in the FE and Lifelong Learning sector. Part-time teachers, such as jw, might laugh at this claim. Full-time teachers may also feel a certain scepticism.”

    The alternative is, of course, that anyone can teach in FE. Do away with the qualification requirements, only employ instructors …… oh look, turkeys voting for christmas!!

    “I don’t teach, I just ‘manage’. Much of my time is spent hassling staff, many of whom are part-time, to renew their IfL membership, declare their CPD to the IfL, meet me for performance management meetings bla bla. Frankly, it’s embarrassing.”

    Don’t do it then.

  22. Garry
    Jun 28th 2010, 8:31 am

    “The alternative is of course that anyone can teach in FE”. A somwhat naive comment, FE colleges all have Human Resources who rigorously take up references and look into qualifications and set up robust interview panels before, during and after job applications. I recently did long-term sickness cover at a local college, they did all of the above but what they were not interested in was by IfL membership number. My existing college also went into my CPD during the appraisal process, so the two main functions the Ifl quote on being challenged to justify their raison d’etre are already being done by colleges – duplication, at a cost of £6.6million per annum. Get rid of them.

  23. MarkyD
    Jul 1st 2010, 9:06 am

    “A somwhat naive comment, FE colleges all have Human Resources who rigorously take up references and look into qualifications and set up robust interview panels before, during and after job applications.”

    No they don’t, if they did then UCU wouldn’t be continually banging on about colleges employing ‘instructors’ etc. That’s the trouble with union types, they want it both ways and eventually their arguments become contradictory. That said, I’m all up for having the regulations removed – not least because then I wouldn’t have in my professional body numpties who see their employer as the key element of their professionalism. Though I guess it is far easier to do as the boss tells you than think for yourself.

  24. MConnor
    Jul 1st 2010, 9:10 am

    For those interested in a more positive take on the IfL:

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Institute-for-Learning-IfL/142031464395?ref=ts

    http://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=13269240267&ref=ts

    We are not all negative and the views here, in my experience, are far from representative. In fact I only usually hear these views from the pre-2001 mob who don’t like the fact they are unqualified.

  25. Garry
    Jul 1st 2010, 9:57 am

    I am one of the “unqualified…. pre 2001 mob”, teaching Accountancy and Finance. I am a Chartered Accountant and have a PGCE. All of my colleagues are similarly qualified and all resent the IfL.

  26. MConnor
    Jul 1st 2010, 1:30 pm

    Garry

    Do you resent having to be qualified to be an accountant and having to belong to an accounting body to practice?

    PS
    If you have a PGCE, you are not one of the “unqualified …. pre 2001 mob”

  27. Sceptic
    Jul 1st 2010, 8:56 pm

    I shall have to come clean. I am one of the pre 2001 mob. I am very well qualified though. I’ve got the full monty of subject specialist and professional qualifications, further post-graduate educational studies, vocational qualifications and experience in private industry, years of “observation of teaching and learning”, leadership of moderation and training sessions, curriculum leadership experience, exam marking and curriculum design and, heavens, I nearly forgot, teaching experience as well. Perhaps these credentials allow me to make some critical judgements on a body whose power emanates entirely from state legislation. If membership of the IfL is a condition of employment, it is very hard to see how it can be argued that membership of said body wasn’t imposed (see MarkyD’s comment). Of course it was imposed. I don’t want to belong to it. I am forced to do so. I have always been keen on my professional development. I managed to accomplish these things without the IfL’s stewardship of my learning.

    I am also rather wary of the link provided by MConnor to the Facebook page. It does not seem to me to be a disinterested group. It has 442 people who ‘like this’ (no possibility on Facebook of registering ‘don’t like this’) – a mammoth number of fans given institutional membership around the 200,000 mark – and its Wall seems to constitute mainly of feeds from the IfL itself. Could it be that this site was set up by the IfL?

    Having said that, I am pleased to see that the Discussion Board on the Facebook site has a topic entitled ‘Abolish the IfL’ and one of the posters provides a link to this very forum. I am pleased to have set this discussion in motion. More comment is welcome.

  28. Garry
    Jul 3rd 2010, 9:43 am

    Re MConnor comment,

    That is just the point, I do NOT have to be a member of a Chartered Institute to practice accountancy so why should I HAVE to belong to a quango to practice teaching??

  29. I can Do
    Jul 5th 2010, 10:22 pm

    Yes, just what you need..yet ANOTHER QUANGO that has next to no experience in doing what ever it is that is being taught. Add to that all the hangers-on that write yet more reports that make no difference or sense to those who are actually doing the job.

    The old adage holds true, namely “Those that can, do. Those that can’t, teach”