‘Jobs for the boys’ fears have now been laid bare

EDUCATION has deployed the dead cat – answering claims that were never made, trying to turn attention to other politicians who were never involved or responsible.

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Classic politics, but the head of curriculum and standards recruitment process remains a politically-influenced sham.

What has been so heartening since the issue came bursting into life has been the public’s engagement and ability to see through Education’s smokescreen.

The committee’s 2,300-word treatise has done nothing but confirm public suspicions that good governance has been thrown out of the window in the overwhelming desire to deliver on its reform package.

This is not about selection, it is not about two schools, or three, or four, it is about the need for a fair, open and transparent appointment process, about the dangers of being seen to be a political appointee.

ESC has been keen to paint this as some sort of revenge mission from former board members trying to derail their plans, some Machiavellian scheme to take us back two years and start again.

It is this attitude that has blinded some of their political colleagues, too, who have misjudged the public mood so much it is embarrassing.

Replace the name Matt Fallaize with Mary Lowe and we all know that the same people leaping to his defence, belittling respected people who have had a direct involvement, trying to crack ill-conceived jokes and calling for an investigation into the leak rather than the car crash it exposed would instead be calling for swift resignations.

If you needed any example of how entrenched and divided this Assembly has become, this is it.

It no longer matters what someone has done, just who has done it – that is appalling government.

Until the leak of Deputy Fallaize’s devastating email to his then chief secretary on the day the interview panel had gone against his and his board’s wishes, there was no real desire from the States to look at what had happened and gone wrong and what wider implications it could have.

It did not mount a defence of the constructive dismissal claim by HR officer Amanda Singleton, who was so disgusted with what unfolded that she resigned.

Dropping that defence at the time avoided a public airing of everything that has since come out.

The timeline of the ‘fact-finding’ exercise instigated within Policy & Resources also has a bad smell about it.

Started when it become aware of ‘governance concerns’ about the recruitment, presumably thanks to that email to which the president Gavin St Pier was copied, it was put on hold, we are told, because of the likelihood of a tribunal – although surely facts might have been useful to the States’ defence that it initially was pressing on with.

The States dropped its defence in the first week of July.

It was only last week, following extensive coverage in this newspaper, that it saw fit to kick-start the fact-finding again.

Draw your own conclusions, but mine would be that this was something it wanted put in a cupboard and forgotten about.

We need to thank those who have been brave enough to come forward to explain what happened – without them, political fingerprints will be increasingly all over the public sector in undesirable ways.

The lack of awareness of boundaries between the political and operational, or actually the willingness to ignore them, has become a theme of this term.

This saga shows just what that results in.

There are some who argue that the committee should be able to pick and choose all of its senior team, create whichever posts it likes to achieve its vision, that it ended up employing a top educationalist so none of this matters.

But it does matter.

We want the best people being employed by the public sector, and for that to happen everyone needs to know that they are in with a fair chance when putting the energy and effort into a job application.

While some have joked in the past that the States is all about ‘jobs for the boys’, this lays those fears bare.

Senior staff simply cannot be seen to be political appointees, it would undermine their work and the advice that they give, especially as boards come and go.

Impartiality of the civil service is a cornerstone to a well-run island and the States should be an exemplar to other organisations when it comes to good practice.

Clearly, an independent review is needed of what happened.

There needs to be accountability and changes made for the public to have faith in what happens at Frossard House.

For anyone worried about cost, think what the price will be of a public sector shorn of the brightest talents. It already struggles to attract candidates because people simply have no faith in working for it. Now there is the danger of political interference being allowed to grow.

Outside of this, the chief executive has some real questions to answer about how his staff are being treated and whether he is comfortable with that – if not, how has it been allowed to get to this stage?

Policy & Resources is in a weak position, that much became evident in the Home Affairs governance review.

It has been further damaged by its handling of the appointment process, and its involvement in it, to date.

Both it and ESC want this kicked well down the road so it does not interfere in the debate about whether to fund education’s £150m. transformation plans.

It may all be uncomfortable and awkward, but this needs to be dealt with in parallel if there is to be any faith in this States.

The chances are it won’t be.

Having stalled on the fact-finding, the review process will be handed down the line, terms of reference need to be agreed, someone credible found to do the investigation, documents and people made available, legal advice taken, powers decided on, and some thought given to how any recommendations are taken forward.

There are many ways delay can be built into this ‘for the greater good’ – although that would never happen, would it?

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