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April 28, 2003
Jarvis advising about everything

I try to avoid filling up BEdBlog with mere comments on national news stories, but this story, which was also all over the front page of today's paper Guardian, is a hard one to ignore. I wonder what my friend the boss of Transport Blog, Patrick Crozier, makes of this:

Jarvis, the engineering contractor at the centre of the police investigation into the Potters Bar rail crash, has been awarded a three-year government contract to help rescue failing secondary schools.

The decision, made in January but never publicly announced, has been met with astonishment and anger by teachers and headteachers.

With the first anniversary of the derailment and death of seven passengers less than a fortnight away, it has emerged that Jarvis has been given a 1.9m contract to help advise the 700 worst-performing secondary schools in England and Wales. Jarvis has never had an educational contract of this type before.

It was condemned as "shocking", "extraordinary" and "a joke" by headteachers' leaders and teaching unions, who say the move shows that official attempts to pull struggling schools into line are becoming dangerously "incoherent".

Unlike the Guardian, I have no idea whether this contract will prove to be a good idea or not. But one point does need to be made about all such schemes. It is this. The government hiring "private sector" enterprises to help run its nationalised system of schools does not a free market make. Hiring Jarvis like this doesn't mean that all the schools which are altered in accordance with its advice will partake of the dynamism, innovativeness and general fizz and creativity of the private sector. It merely means that Jarvis is a collective civil servant.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:06 PM
Category: Free market reforms

Indeed. Without the pressures of market forces on him, his advice is likely to be substandard. I know that in my town, consultants hired by the city have been essentially yes-men, telling the local government exactly what it wants to hear. I doubt that it's much better on a larger scale. Probably worse since the amount of money is much larger.

Comment by: Lucas Wiman on April 29, 2003 05:09 AM
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