Wanted: leader for new quango, good perks, but just one catch

12th March 2010 at 00:00
Andrew Hall jumps ship, leaving fledgling QCDA in need of a boss as Tories promise to axe it

With salary and benefits of more than #163;200,000 and the chance to make your mark leading a new national organisation, it looks like one of education's most attractive jobs.

But the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency (QCDA) is likely to have its work cut out recruiting a replacement for chief executive Andrew Hall.

It was announced last Thursday that he is leaving to head the country's largest exams board, just two days after the Conservatives confirmed they would scrap the agency if they win the general election.

QCDA insiders insist the timing of the announcement was co-incidental. But few will believe the departure of Mr Hall, unavailable for interviews this week, is unconnected to the Tory death sentence.

His decision means that when the agency formally comes into existence on April Fool's Day, it will effectively be without a leader.

Barry Sheerman, chairman of the Commons schools select committee, told The TES he was so concerned he planned to call the agency in for a hearing. "It is worrying - massive instability just when you don't want it," the Labour MP said. "He has been in such a short time and I am deeply disappointed he is going at this stage."

Mr Hall joined the agency's predecessor, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority in 2006 as strategic resource management director and was made acting chief executive in December 2008.

The position was made permanent the following July, just days after Conservative leader David Cameron said "the QCDA must go".

Mr Hall's predecessors Ken Boston and Sir William Stubbs left the organisation in the wake of respective fiascos over unmarked Sats tests and A-level grading.

And the chartered accountant faced his own difficulties last year when the nascent QCDA was sent to Coventry, literally. The agency lost 55 per cent of staff in the move from its swanky London offices, with the husband of one employee complaining there was "no Fortnums" in the West Midlands city.

Others have warned the new organisation has not been given the legal powers to prevent ministers interfering. But Mr Hall, who will take over from the retiring Mike Cresswell as director general of exam board the AQA in June, will not be around to find out.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "I am extremely disappointed that Andrew Hall has jumped ship at a time when the QCDA desperately needs consistent leadership.

"With the Conservatives specifically identifying the QCDA for axing, it is not going to be a very clever career move to take on the job and find yourself organising your colleagues' redundancies."

A Conservative administration would have to legislate to abolish the QCDA. But a planned curriculum review would be handed straight to the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

Other major duties could also be quickly brought back in-house, leaving the QCDA existing in little more than name.

The agency said it would recruit a new chief executive. Chris Trinick, chairman, said: "QCDA has strong and committed leaders who are focused on future plans for the newly vested organisation after April 1."

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