‘Toppling folly’, ‘breathtaking waste of public money’, ‘eye-wateringly incompetent arse-hats’. These are just three phrases that the Education Select Committee didn’t use about the Careers & Enterprise Company during yesterday’s grilling. But only just. One has the impression that left to their own devices and behind not quite closed doors they would say all of this and worse. And rightly so.
The Careers & Enterprise Company is a footsoldier in the fight against careers and outcomes inequality, working with school and colleges to forge better, more meaningful links between them and companies. Or at least that’s their remit. Something they seem to have forgotten at various points. Unlike a conventional footsoldier though, theirs is not the sorry lot of a meagre grunt who’ll fight for 3 square meals and a bed for the night, no, no – they hoover up £19 Million a year in funding to do their fighting for social mobility.
Now £19M may not seem like a whole hill of beans in the larger context of public spending but there’s still a fiduciary responsibility to justify the CEC’s package when it eclipses the money spent at a regional level with boots on the ground, front line work. Lucy Powell MP was very clear on the point that people simply didn’t know what it is was they were doing and moreover that they themselves struggled to ‘convey what your impact is and what your purpose is’. Now, if people don’t know what it is you’ve done and/or are doing and you struggle to explain it, that £19M starts to look increasingly like money being flushed away.
What came under particular criticism is the £900,000 spent on research and reports in the last year, research and reports that were being largely duplicated having previously been done by local businesses, trade associations, universities, the DfE itself and other think tanks. This is not only not part of their remit but is, generously, a profligate waste of time and money, both of which may be better spent elsewhere.
Now, why does all of this matter and why am I even mentioning it? The CEC is at the heart of all my and many others’ concerns about the impact that the new Careers Strategy will have. Specifically in regard to the attainment of the Gatsby Benchmarks as I wrote about the other week (https://edducan.com/2018/05/02/new-article-published-by-teachwire/) one of the critical elements of these benchmarks is giving students meaningful access to employers and industry. Now meaningful shouldn’t really be as subjective as yesterday’s hearing exposed it to be, Robert Halfon MP grilled them on what that meant to them and the tin-pot response is indicative of just how poorly they are performing in this duty where they considered ‘an assembly’ to be meaningful enough to check that box. Therein lies the heart of the issue, the new careers strategy can be gamed and the fact that the business that has been appointed to address the issue is not just complicit but willing to be part of that multi million pound deception means we’re fucked. Which I appreciate is not a particularly clever, or journalistically apposite word to chose but it is sadly true.
To conclude, the CEC is a business that is in receipt of a huge glob of public cash tasked with helping schools and colleges that is spending money on unnecessary research (with another £1M earmarked for further reports in the next 3 years), is only working with 40% of FE colleges and as of December 2016 wasn’t working with any 6th forms or FE colleges in London at all, it struggles to articulate what it’s supposed to be doing and how well they are doing that thing and on top of which is prepared to lie or at least mislead on the benchmarks they are sworn, in part, to uphold and nor will it publish its minutes so it can be held publicly accountable. Yeah, I believe things will change…