Thursday, July 08, 2010

Building Schools

John Redwood gives a fascinating insight into the problem faced by Michael Gove at the Department of Education, following his apology to the House of Commons yesterday. It was a fulsome apology and very different to that which would have been given by Ed Balls, if he had still been in the job. Invariably Labour ministers, when faced with similar circumstances, would have found someone to blame - usually their civil servants. It is clearly the case that a civil servant goofed on the school list but Gove took full responsibility and made clear the buck stopped with him. Do read Redwood's who argument, but if you haven't got the time, here's his conclusion...

In the statement I heard Michael Gove make he was clear in saying he was cancelling the approach of Building Schools for the future because it was an expensive, long winded and inefficient way of building schools. He did not say he was cancelling all new schools building. Indeed, if he is right and he can save substantial sums on the box ticking detailed regulatory approach of the old programme this could leave him with more moeny to spend on bricks and mortar. This message has got entirely lost in the broadcasts and newspaper stories about cuts, leading most people to think there will now be no new schools.

This needs turning round as quickly as possible. According to the figures the Coaliton government is going to spend as much on new capital projects as the outgoing Labour government. In that case they might end up building more schools than Labour for the same amount of money if Mr Gove is right about how to do it more cheaply. I asked him what savings he expected from stopping the BSF approach. He said he would write to me with the answer. The sooner I get that letter the sooner he can tell the country about the waste that is being eliminated and the extra money that should then be available for bricks and mortar.


simon said...

'Fulsome' doesn't mean what you think it means, I suspect. It is defined as offensively flattering or insincere.

Tapestry said...

Most people realise the media lies through tiny little teeth. Go Gove!

Roger Thornhill said...

The problem is you replace the box ticking with what?

it appears it might well be the need to attend the Gove Court to plead indulgences and touch cloth.

The State monopoly control over schools created a backlog of repairs, so the answer from Genius Balls is to have more State monopoly and control over school repairs and rebuilding.

How many schools need repair because they were "modern" garbage intentionally built not to last?

The State commissioning building work is no indication of cost effectiveness or prompt delivery and I see no indication that the new regime is going to significantly improve transparency and responsiveness.

"Change" is not good enough - we need to see IMPROVEMENT.

Anonymous said...

Oops Iain, I think you have the meaning of 'fulsome' wrong. I think what you meant to say was 'full'. Sorry to be a pedant but, and I'll leave this to a downloaded quote, "Fulsome does not mean “full.” Nor does it mean “complete, well developed” or other pleasing synonyms of abundance. On the contrary, the adjective is used not in a compliment, but in an insult, meaning “excessive.” Its frequent use in “fulsome praise” gives that phrase the meaning of “cloying, unctuous, obsequious flattery.”

Though loosey-goosey usagists may accept the turning of the word’s meaning on its head, most of us draw the line at such surrender to error."

You are not alone, Sky News gets it wrong on a weekly basis.

Anonymous said...

My logic goes like this: the schools project was instigated by Balls; therefore the 1400 projects were listed and monitored by Balls; therefore the list generated by Gove must be based on Balls data; surely a guaranteed Balls up!

Anonymous said...

The proof of the schools building pudding will be seen in the eating at the next general election.

Meantime if it makes Balls look good to his electorate -- Brilliant!

The notion that state commissioned building work is inherently inferior is pure biased speculation.

the media do not care about the truth, the media only care about a story, preferably a story which the reporter can luxuriate in; either on the front page or coyly on camera (preferably on location). Kay Burley seems to have cornered this market lately.
The media will be most upset if Mr Moat is quietly arrested.

Daedalus said...

I think that we really need to look at what we want from our schools. A DECENT EDUCATION would be a good start. But why are we spending £20,000,000 on schools like this one in Monkseaton
I am quite sure that a more than adequate school could have been built for far less money, these sort of building are just vanity projects for those concerned. Don’t get me wrong here I do not want a return to outside loos and having to wear coats inside in winter, but to me this place is just excessive. Talking to some supply teachers recently they griped about a school in Bradford that had the seemingly obligatory atrium which caused all sorts of H&S issues with things being dropped off or thrown across at various levels.
We just need to build good solid buildings that are light, airy, quiet and super insulated to keep the heating bills down, a full sprinkler system would also be a good idea.


Ms Humphrey Cushion said...

What qualifies YOU to make implications as to what Ed Balls may or may not say in the unlikely scenario he would have to apologise to the House for such a major cock-up?

Gove made glaring errors, not once but 3 times and admits that his latest published documents still may contain errors. He was big enough to apologise (well, he had no choice in reality) but I respect him for taking the full blame.

FF said...

Mr Gove should apologise. The releasing of the list of schools to be cut was particularly inept, with much of the incompetence directly attributable to Mr Gove himself. How Labour ministers might have dealt with a similar situation is irrelevant.

Bear in mind these schools have been through the "bureaucratic hoops" and as far as they were concerned the new buildings were a done deal. If you're going to renege on a deal, at least treat the victims with respect.

Concerning a subsitute for the cancelled programme and Mr Redwood's comment, "stories about cuts, leading most people to think there will now be no new schools." No replacement programme has been announced. Mr Gove's statements on thi are vague. So in the absence of other information it's perfectly valid to assume many fewer schools will now be built.

Paddy said...

As others have pointed out, Iain, "fulsome" apologies are what Labour ministers make. Tory ministers make "heartfelt" or "frank" apologies. Well, that's what we'd like to believe.

Using English properly is important, as you have rightly said recently, but don't worry: as newspapers cut down on sub-editors, words like fulsome will be wrongly used the whole time.

Unsworth said...

@ FF

"So in the absence of other information it's perfectly valid to assume many fewer schools will now be built."

Yes, and?

Do we need more schools? Does the quality of the school built environment have a measurable impact on educational standards - if so can you provide a link to credible independent research which shows this?

Anonymous said...

I wonder if it is too conspiratorial to think that the civil servant who goofed on the schools list might have been getting the department's revenge for those quango abolitions...

Jimmy said...

As I understand it there have to date been at least four different versions of this list, at least three of which presumably were therefore incorrect. For which one was he apologising?

"It is clearly the case that a civil servant goofed on the school list"

Can you explain the word "clearly" in this context? Presumably Gove decided which buildings to cut and unless a civil servant deliberately doctored the list he must in some way have been responsible for its production.

Jimmy said...


"Do we need more schools? Does the quality of the school built environment have a measurable impact on educational standards - if so can you provide a link to credible independent research which shows this?"

"Eton’s excellence depends on the variety as well as the quality of what it provides. The school wishes to continue to offer the widest possible choice of sports and activities, but it is a costly undertaking. In time we need to build a new combined indoor/outdoor pool and improve the sports hall. Substantial resources are needed to improve and maintain Eton’s grounds, courts, rowing lake, pavilions and boat houses. "

FF said...

@Unsworth: "Do we need more schools?"

John Redwood clearly thinks so from his quote. I assume Iain quotes Mr Redwood because he's reassured the questions are being asked. I guess this means Iain also thinks improved school buildings are important. But he can speak for himself, of course.

Finally, and in a slightly different context, Mr Gove is himself in favour of new schools as extra buildings are brought in as part of his Free Schools programme.

The Leveller said...

Um....... point is, Mr. Redwood, that Gove goofed bigtime WHATEVER he really intended.
He gave the impression that he is badly prepared and short-sighted. Bad policy, bad political judgement.

CityBunch said...

the govt should be taking some real action on this.. and it should be in media aswell

more schools in uk need this...