While FErret was naturally interested to read what an illustrious former civil servant felt about putting FE into the DfE (see story opposite), what do those currently working in government think of the changes?
Perhaps not surprisingly, the minutes of the latest area review advisory group meeting last month (which were mysteriously left, stuffed into a brown envelope in FErret’s burrow) suggest that, well, no one really knows what the hell’s going on.
Even Bobbie McClelland, formerly deputy director for reforming FE provision at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (may it rest in peace), seems to be sitting on the fence. “There had been clear benefits to belonging to Bis,” she reportedly told the assembled great and good of the sector, “but the move to DfE was positive as it meant synergies could be made with the rest of the education system and the progression routes from age 11 to adult education could be aligned.” Righto then. Glad we got that cleared up.
All we do know is that the departmental restructuring is holding up the publication of some pretty key documents. The long-awaited guidance on how the apprenticeship levy will work should finally be released today; then there are 10 reports from the first two waves of area reviews that are gathering dust on a civil servant’s desk, too.
One point that was clear from the meeting was that, according to the soon-to-depart FE commissioner Sir David Collins, whatever the departmental machinations across Whitehall, no major changes to the area review process were expected.
Although, given that there’s an independent evaluation into the area review process and a separate internal government audit – not to mention a review of the reviews by the Commons Education and Skills Select Committee – all on the way, FErret doesn’t entirely share the commissioner’s optimism.