The Middle Tier: Shorter version – it won’t work

I have seen several proposals kicking around over the past few weeks. Lots of good points in all of them. I would like to make two very quick points.

Firstly I would say that none of the proposals will work. This is not to say that the proposals don’t have merit, it is simply an observation based on past experience. The proposals either base themselves on an existing situation, in which case as soon as the situation on the ground changes the solution is unlikely to work. Or it is based on an assumed future configuration, in which case it is likely to need to be changed when the real configuration evolves.

This is the crux of this point. Any system set up will need to have a process of continual review built into it to ensure that it best serves what is the current configuration of the education system. The problem here is that inevitably once a system is set up little ’empires’ will be built up within it which are resistant to any changes that will need to be made. Somehow, this review and change mechanism needs to be built in.

Secondly, deep breath, the “democratic deficit”. Now, democracy is desirable. It is required. And it is necessary. However out is not sufficient unto itself. I have never been a huge fan of LA control over schools. Not a great enemy of it either. There are brilliant LAs and there are ones that are not so brilliant blah blah.

The problem I see with the proposals I have seen is that the regions have been drawn in order to deliberately mitigate against any form of local democracy. As has been pointed out, it is a strange region that includes both Skegness and West Ham. The local context in these places is very different and this will impact of the school system.

The bigger democratic issue is that in none of the proposals have I seen a way that local democracy can have  direct impact on the work of the ‘commissioner’. i.e., they can’t sack them. This is in part due to the scale and shape of some of the regions. The West Ham group may be happy, but the Skegness area may feel that they need a different commissioner. The proposals I’ve seen don’t seem to address this.

There, told you they were quick points.

Shorter version – It won’t work and its not democratic.