Labour County Councillor John Tanner in his letter to the Oxford Times (August 1 2013) has already alerted us to the planned outsourcing of education services by the County Council but research carried out by North Oxfordshire Villages’ member Sue Christie reveals that not only are ‘back office’ services like HR up for grabs but also a raft of education support services currently provided by Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) professional staff.
Important education services are now being “soft market” tested after approval by the July cabinet with the final decision on the proposals to be made in September.
This is what the Tory-Independent alliance wants to sell off:
• Foundation Years 0-5
• School improvement & development services 5-19
• Inclusion services and Special Needs Advisory Teachers
• Equality Diversity and Achievement Service (EDAS)
• Governor Services
• Newly Qualified Teachers (NQT)
• Standards Advisory Council for Religious Education (SACRE)
• Leadership and strategic projects
• Oxfordshire International Education
The proposal document also states: “The package may be more attractive to the market if Outdoor Centres and the Music Service are included.”
Lack of consultation
There has been no consultation on this with Schools, who are the direct recipients of these services, and it is being done in the name of saving costs, in a great hurry over the summer holiday period.
If outsourcing saves costs it can only be by reducing staff pay and conditions and redundancies. How will this improve the service? It is even possible that services will be moved out of the County. How will this benefit the local economy?
Collaborative model the way forward
Sue Christie suggests a collaborative model to improve education in the county. She says, “The sensible way would be by OCC forming a consortium in collaboration with schools to provide what they need. There are many examples of good practice of this in other Counties and Boroughs. It is now recognised that an effective ‘middle tier’ in education is vital to school improvement and as such OCC’s school improvement and allied services are of the utmost strategic importance.”
Sue continues, “What Oxfordshire needs is collaborative work with local experts provided by a responsive and accountable local body. This cannot be done by a profit driven multi-national company.”
The alarm bells are finally ringing about these profit-hungry recipients of taxpayers’ money like Serco. Serco, in addition to their bungling of security services at the Olympics, are under investigation for possible fraud over tagging of prisoners – some didn’t exist and some had died.
Education too important to be outsourced
Outsourcing may work for some things that are easy to measure and are not inter-connected with other strategic services, but the education of all our children is too important and complex.
In a letter to the Oxford times Sue calls upon all who care about public education to resist these proposals. She writes, “We have seen the omnishambles of School Transport and the failure of the County Council’s Minerals and Waste Core Strategy. We must not allow a County Council that increasingly appears not fit for purpose to rush through this unwanted and ill-considered proposal.”