Gove and the BSF list - whose fault?

11 Jul 2010

 There appears to be a rather nasty anonymous briefing game going on over who is responsible for the many errors in the various lists of Building Schoools for the Future (BSF)  that have been published by the government.

Clearly embarrassed by the number of errors about which school building projects are to be cut, so-called "sources close to Mr Gove" are said to have been  suggesting that these were the fault of Partnerships for Schools (PfS), the quango that oversees BSF. See, for example:

More honourably - because it was at least on-the-record -  the Conservative MP, Graham Stuart, has also suggested on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 that the error-strewn list was produced by the quango, PfS. As the chair of the Education Select Committee, Mr Stuart may find himself leading an investigation into the BSF affair, and maybe it would be better if he kept apart from this debate until he can conduct an enquiry and produce evidence.

Reports in The Sunday Telegraph - normally a supporter of Mr Gove - suggest however that the errors lay with the Education Secretary's resistance to taking advice.

Mr Gove now faces another show-down with his Labour Shadow, Ed Balls, in the Commons tomorrow.  See this list of questions from Mr Balls to Mr Gove.

Amid all this, there are beginning to be signs that Mr Gove could become another John Patten - his equally articulate and intelligent predecessor who, however, was accident prone, not very good at communicating his message, and who did not last long in the education brief.

Meanwhile the whole unedifying spectacle of this blame game will only make those schools that are losing out feel they are victims of a political game as much as of the need to cut government spending.

And - errors apart -- why were the cuts made on the basis of how far projects had advanced rather than on an assessment of relative need?

If - as one hopes - that sort of assessment is going to be made once BSF has closed down - and if there will be new capital spending on schools - then why does the government not shout about it now as John Redwood has suggested they should.

Mr Gove appeared to hint as much today.

But in the current climate unambiguous promises would be more reassuring than hints of possibly more money at some undetermined date in the future.


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