Where is the desk of the new Regional School Commissioners?

A few months ago the government advertised for 8 “Regional School Commissioners”. Since then Michael Gove, secretary of state for education, has said several times that the Commissioners with be the eyes and ears of the Department for Education. He will devolve his school monitoring and closing powers to them so they can become a sort of academy ninja mob roaming the streets of ‘places that aren’t London’ taking out bad academies and spreading love for the good.

While there are lots of questions I could raise about this policy I keep coming back to the same one and so far no one has an answer:

Where will their desks be?

People look at me like I’m mad. “It’s a digital world,” they say, “the Commissioner’s desk can be in Starbucks, or their car, or a school….”

I look at them they like they are mad. “These eight people will be paid over a hundred grand each. They will be among the most powerful people in education. And you expect them to have meetings….where? In their living room? Will academy chiefs be popping round for a cup of tea? Also, what about their documents? Some of those will be pretty confidential. Is it a requirement of the job that you have secure filing space? And I presume they will have staff. Maybe a secretary? A few admin bods? Where will they be?”

It sounds sarcastic, but it’s really important.

Let’s think through the options:

(1) They are all based in Westminster. Not a bother perhaps. But then what makes them “regional” or “devolved”?

(2) They are based in academy trusts/schools. Hmm…*Sounds the conflict-of-interest alarm bells*

(3) We create eight “regional” offices for them. What? After shutting down regional development agencies, regional DfE buildings, gutting local authority offices you’re now going to open eight offices? Good luck with that.

(4) The regional Ofsted centres (as posited by Sam Freedman) – Ah. So, we would have people with devolved central government powers sitting in the same place as people who are apparently completely independent from government. *Shrugs*. Could work. Can see why people would be tetchy about it though.

(5) There is a ‘hub’ in the centre of England for them. Maybe in the old BECTA offices. Or some such place. < See, now we’re talking. But if that’s true, I once again question if what we aren’t actually talking about is a national office for school commissioning with regional directors. If we are that sounds amazingly sensible. Yet whenever I suggest this idea to people they again look at me as if I am mad.

At which point I shrug and simply repeat “So tell me again about these desks….”



Categories: UK Education Policy

6 replies

  1. Will you stop doing this – raising damned awkward but engaging questions when serious people like me are trying to close down the books for the day.

    It is the sheer lack of accountability for any of this stuff that beggars my belief. How is it that we must have elected police commissioners and city mayors, but unappointed czars within education? As the TES article made clear before Christmas, 200 employees are going to lose their jobs to fund these regional posts.

    I attended the launch of the blueprint for a proposed new College of Teaching yesterday, and in his address, Gareth Davies, Lead teacher etc at Sawtry Community College said this:
    “To be a good teacher, you need to be just 2 things, Interesting and Fair. These days, perhaps you need to be brave as well”. Perhaps one day in the future, our profession will have the clout of an independent Royal College to ensure that where our political masters exercise their duties as fair and honest custodians . With the irresistible force that is renationalising our state schools into academies, under central and unaccountable control, it is this lack of due diligence being perpetrated that will no doubt lead to Michael Gove and others being found guilty of Malfeasance. But not yet. So thanks for being brave, Laura McInerney and for making such a fuss.

    As for desk space, there will be plenty of room at the Al-Madinah free school in Derby. Is that central enough for the regional commissioners of the Govedom?

  2. This made me think about accountability structures and how where you physically put people actually effects the dynamics. Education is riven with a lack of accountability. The same old people are involved in a large number of things (e.g. Head Teachers as Ofsted Inspectors, as Change Consultants, as key members of school chains and clusters, as assessors for SLEs etc etc), and everything is connected. So, where is the standalone Assessor/Inspector? Where does independent accountability come from?

    Put the Regional School Commissioners in independently sited offices in the Regions, away from anybody involved in education and ensure they are fully independent.

  3. Good question Laura! I think they have to be in their ‘region’ both in terms of perception and relationships, the national hub part can be managed virtually (with some regular get togethers in Nottingham or somewhere equally inconvenient). Problem with co-locating in the Ofsted regional offices is that the Ofsted regions & Commissioner regions don’t match. Consequently, the Ofsted regionally office that covers the NE area is not in the Regional Commissioner NE ‘region’.
    Having said they need to be in their region, the next issue would be where in that region – I can already hear the chuntering!

  4. A modest proposal: to save money, why don’t they put their desks in the offices recently vacated by the Local Authority education officials tasked with regional oversight

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