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'A rumoured restructure at the DfE could refocus ministerial minds on school reform'

Would changes in the Department for Education lead to more coherency in the aftermath of Michael Gove's shock-and-awe campaign?

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Would changes in the Department for Education lead to more coherency in the aftermath of Michael Gove's shock-and-awe campaign?

Rumblings of a reorganisation in the Department for Education reach me. Details are still hazy but it would seem there are moves afoot to put mainstream schools policy under one senior civil servant.

As it stands, this work is divided into two main directorates, infrastructure and funding, and education standards. It seems likely that these two could be merged under one director-general.

To a casual observer, this could seem a little, well, boring, and, to be honest, it is. But the adjustment would reflect a couple of important changes that are taking place in central government that could have long-term consequences for schools.

The first is that there is a growing realisation that the aftermath of Michael Gove’s shock-and-awe approach to reform needs a bit of tidying up. The regional schools commissioner model is far from satisfactory (hence it had its wings clipped recently) and the mystical “middle tier” remains an unresolved policy question.

There are thousands of schools in multi-academy trusts (and not in multi-academy trusts) that badly need a sense of order from central government. 

DfE distracted by universities

Secondly, there is the realisation that while it certainly makes sense for universities policy to have returned to the DfE, it has taken much of the attention away from schools. Especially since there is so much focus from No 10 on reform to tuition fees.

HE and FE have just one director-general, so perhaps the same should be the case for schools? It’s all about focus – and influence with the education secretary, Damian Hinds.

While this might sound a bit like Kremlinology, it could have long-term implications for heads and teachers. As it stands, education policy is in danger of being dominated by the behemoth of universities; if this is avoided then the chance of more reforms to schools increases, for better or worse. 

Ed Dorrell is head of content at Tes. He tweets @Ed_Dorrell

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