The Department for Education must maintain sufficient focus on the critical children’s policy agenda to ensure this is given adequate resources and receives enough attention from senior officials and ministers, warn MPs. The DfE should also consider appointing a non-executive Board member with expertise in children's policy issues, and must do more improve staff morale, says the Education Committee in a review of governance and leadership at the Department.
Launching the report, Education Committee Chair, Graham Stuart MP, said,
"This inquiry has shone an important spotlight on how policy is implemented and managed. It has highlighted a need to ensure that children’s policy retains sufficient status alongside schools and colleges, which appear to occupy the majority of Ministerial and officials' time.
Whilst we met many outstanding civil servants during our visits to the DfE, and have much to praise about the Department’s new-look Board, we have also identified a number of refinements that could ensure better governance and leadership in ways that would improve both delivery and management of policy.
Critically, that will need to involve some fairly urgent effort to improve staff morale, which survey data suggests has dropped to a point where only half the staff believe the Department to be well run. In straitened times, a qualified staff are the most valuable resource of any Government Department."
The Committee's report – which considers evidence from current and former DfE Board members, and independent experts – commends several aspects of the DfE's governance and leadership, including the appointment of "four skilled and experienced" new non-executives. The Committee recommends, however, that the Board be subject to increased external scrutiny. MPs also suggest a number of improvements to the DfE's current restructuring plans. Central amongst these is a recommendation for the Department to evaluate the impact of structural change on the front line and on customer service.