Tuesday, 13 July 2010
Educational Establishments’ Current Financial Irresponsibility
A large proportion of the taxes paid by the British public goes towards the support of state (public) educational establishments. This is right and proper so long as it is spent wisely.
Having spent a lifetime in industry and frequently experienced the financial requirements and prudence necessary for the survival of companies, my husband is constantly dismayed by the lack of fiscal control currently exercised by schools. Examples of this relate to discretionary spending and lack of improvements in work force quality, competence and efficiency.
A company experiencing financial difficulties will introduce several measures of additional control including discretional spending. In spite of educational cut backs, including many cancellations of schools building projects, discretionary spending still seems to persist with little apparent control. How can it be right to allow head teachers to continue spending significant sums of money on luxurious hotels for 'team building' when there are not enough funds for potentially essential schools building programmes and when there will probably be a call later in the academic year to cut the working hours of some ancillary staff?
Improvements in work force quality, competence and efficiency are normal in a commercial organisation seeking to survive. At times of economic difficulty such needs are intensified. Over the past few years companies have made it the norm to remove the lowest performing staff - typically 5%. The benefits of cost cutting - overall workforce improvement with employees working harder to avoid being in the lowest rated 5% and opportunities for new and better talent - are very clear. Even without these measures there can be grave consequences for any manager off-loading poorly performing staff to another part of the organisation. At best such activity is regarded as avoiding proper management practice, otherwise known as laziness or incompetence, and unfairly giving the problem to another manager with overall detriment to the company. In the commercial world, such failures in management can lead to serious disciplinary action. How can it be right or acceptable to the people at the top of the educational organisation that there have only been 18 teacher dismissals for incompetence in 40 years?
In the past Barry has worked with Peter Gershon and Martin Read (ex-industry leaders employed as Government advisors on public finance) both of whom will be very familiar with normal financial controls, particularly in times of difficulty. Are their voices ignored?
This is a criticism, not of teachers, but of the top levels of management at or near ministerial rank. It is at that level that matters relating to financial discipline and work force competence must be set. It seems that Ed Balls, the minister responsible in the Labour government, was pretty incompetent. Can we be assured that the current Government will do better by delivering more effective financial controls, introducing effective plans to improve teacher quality, removing inept teachers and disciplining head teachers who fail to comply?