The Department for Education likes to remind us that accountability and transparency are essential to trust and good governance, yet these principles do not seem to apply to the DfE itself. News items in TES (and other papers) often end with a comment from "a DfE spokesperson". Rightly, we expect TES stories to be well-sourced and balanced. Stories identify the union officials, academics, local authority staff and interest group representatives who publicly hold the government to account in these pages. Yet taxpayer-funded civil servants who implement or uphold DfE policies are given the privilege of anonymity. Also, is it appropriate that some comments promote often divisive government policies and denigrate opponents? TES should set a new standard and refuse to publish comments from the DfE unless its spokespeople are prepared to be named.
Rob Webster, Research officer, Institute of Education, University of London.