Gove's BSF errors do little to give confidence

Opinion

Gove's BSF errors do little to give confidence


In the spirit of transparency and openness that Nick Clegg keeps going on about let me start by stating that I'm no fan of the education secretary Michael Gove. Tempted to go further and reveal I can't stand the man but for the sake of balance let's keep that bit to one side.

Where there is a problem with Gove is in the way that with just a few weeks in government when the moment comes for him to step forward and make a major political announcement he fluffs it. The plan was to stand up and talk tough about deficits, quality and value and then shelf the Building Schools for the Future scheme.

That scheme not only gave schools the chance to get new buildings but it also improved the technology that pupils could get access to. You don't have to be a politician to be aware that making sure the next generation is armed with the latest knowledge of technology makes a great deal of sense from a future competitiveness point of view. Obviously the scheme benefited not just schools but builders and IT firms that could offer their products and services under a BSF tender process.

But most of that is now going to be history and getting back to the plan all Gove had to do following his announcement of cuts and reviews to BSF was issue a list of those schools impacted. Unfortunately that he could not do.

The embarrassing result is that he not only finds himself apologizing but some of those contractors that thought they had kept some BSF business only to find it gone might now turn to legal means to get some compensation.

But what worries me more is not just the cock-ups but the way these cuts are being delivered. BSF might on the face of it be education spending and therefore public sector money but it was the private sector that delivered the IT and the private sector that built the new schools. They have both been hit and could well end up losing jobs as a result.

Bear in mind that the BSF announcement comes just a few weeks after the government announced the closure of BECTA, which advised schools on what technology to buy, and you start to see my concerns, which are that cuts might be easy to make on paper but who is clearing up the mess afterwards.

Are you going to end up in a non Becta and BSF future with schools popping into PC World to get their kit? The lack of thought about what comes next is alarming and the way BSF has been handled provides no crumbs of comfort that the government knows what it is doing.

This was first published in July 2010

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