The Department for Education spent thousands on "coaching services" for its top official, and other senior staff, less than four months before he was sacked in the wake of the exams fiasco, Tes can reveal.
Data released by the DfE in response to a freedom of information request shows that the department spent thousands on a contract for "leadership team individual coaching" for the then-permanent secretary Jonathan Slater and its director generals over the lockdown period.
The contract, worth £9,000, which was directly awarded to Steve Radcliffe Associates with a start date of 30 April 2020, was intended to "provide coaching services for permanent secretary and direct[or] generals to support ongoing leadership activities".
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Mr Slater was permanent secretary at the time the contract started but was sacked less than four months later following the exams grading crisis.
At the time, the government made clear that Mr Slater's move came at the request of the prime minister Boris Johnson. It followed the resignation of Ofqual chief regulator Sally Collier the previous day.
Tes asked the DfE for more details of what the contract entailed, but the department refused to supply any, stating: "Unfortunately we aren't able to provide any further detail on this contract at this time due to the time constraints on this request."
The same FOI request revealed that the DfE spent another £6,500 on a contract awarded without competition for "strategic away days".
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "Schools and colleges will find it pretty incredible that the Department for Education is spending money on leadership coaching and strategic away days at the same time as refusing to reimburse the costs of Covid-related safety measures needed to enable full reopening.
"The amount of money involved in these DfE contracts is small in the grand scheme of things, but they hardly seem the most pressing of priorities."
The DfE, Steve Radcliffe Associates and Deloitte LLP have been approached for comment.