Saturday 10 July 2010

Michael Gove and the BSF Error

I gave an interview for Radio Cambridgeshire last week about BSF.  Basically talking about the situation in Fenland where, even despite the error, the Fenland wave of BSF is still going ahead.  I also said we would continue looking at the situation with regard to capital funding and see what emerges so that we can get necessary focus on other schools in the County.  I strongly believe Michael Gove was quite right to  cancel future waves to re-examine what is happening and people should not be surprised that he is has done so - he signalled the intention well before the election.

BSF as a process is overly bureaucratic - the huge time gap that exists between getting "involved" and actually laying bricks on the ground is a period that eats up money that could be spent better elsewhere.  It is as simple as that, but the fact that it was the only game in Town under New Labour meant that every authority worked with it.   I feel sorry for Authorities that have had waves cancelled - but lets not pretend that BSF was a perfect process that didn't need to be looked at and changed, and let's also not pretend that this is the cancellation of school capital spending - Michael Gove has pledged to look at capital spending with a view to streamlining it and making the process is less bureaucratic.  If a delay makes the overall process better and means that our money is spent more wisely then all the better.

As for the error.  The biggest disappointment for me is Ed Balls vociferous attack on Michael Gove, because he takes some responsibility.   The organisation that is now the Department for Education was in a situation before the election where any problem that arose was solved by a more controlling attitude and/or by throwing another bag of money at it - even when the Country had no more bags of money to throw.  The Department is undergoing a huge cultural change to get beyond the waste and control freakery that Ed Balls made his legacy.   As they go through this transition mistakes are inevitable.  I suspect this particular incident will be a useful lesson to Michael Gove which he will learn from, but I also suspect that as the D for E goes through its transition phase there will be more mistakes.

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