Lost voices

20th October 2000 at 01:00
TO describe the migration of experienced education officers from the public to the private sector as a "brain drain" seems odd. These are not skilled personnel disappearing down some metaphorical plughole, lost forever to the service which nurtured them. They are bobbing up again exactly where top-rank people are needed most: in local authorities whose support for schools and children has been found wanting.

Far from being drained, these brains are being channelled and better rewarded for taking on the challenge of a failing authority. Public service needs to learn the lesson that in a competitive environment quality costs. And it may not only be the salary thatattracts. Contractors also have the benefit of more clearly specified and limited targets to achieve.

Council officers, on the other hand, are torn all ways trying to meet the shifting expectations of the press and various interest groups - teachers, heads, governors and local councillors with an eye to re-election. Running an efficient service becomes an ever-more difficult task. With an increasingly interventionist government, it is not the officers who run the service who are being lost to the system. What is going down the proverbial tubes is democratic accountability: the ability of stakeholders to influence the local administration of education.

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