DFEE cuts top posts

October 6, 1995

Tony Tysome reports on the shake-up of senior civil servants at the Department For Education and Employment. Gillian Shephard's "dream come true" - the Department For Education and Employment - turned into a nightmare for union leaders last week when it emerged that almost a third of top civil servants' jobs were to be cut under the new regime.

The National Union of Civil and Public Servants has claimed that the DFEE's revised management structure, the result of a review following the merger of the Department For Education and Employment Department in July, is too slimline to cope with growing education and employment activities.

Meanwhile, education and training leaders have turned their attention to a DFEE report on how duties are to be spread between the department's top 95 managers, cut from 140 since January last year. The report, Right for DFEE: Building a New Department, says nothing about severance packages of up to Pounds 300,000 rumoured to be under negotiation by the most senior civil servants. Neither does it mention the competition between Michael Bichard and Sir Tim Lankester for the position of permanent secretary, a job they currently share. It is soon to be rationalised by the Prime Minister into a single post.

It does, however, lay out the managerial structure of the new department and its eight divisions, including the further and higher education and youth training directorate - as in the diagram above - and the employment and lifetime learning directorate. It also gives an insight into the culture and priorities likely to dominate the new department, outlining its objectives and values.

Below the permanent secretary are the director general posts for each of the divisions. These have already been filled, with former DFE director Roger Dawe as director general of the further and higher education and youth training directorate and Nick Stuart, formerly ED director of resources and strategy, heading the employment and lifetime learning directorate. An internal competition has begun for the next layer of director posts, and consultation on proposals for the divisional manager roles was concluded this week.

The report says that the new DFEE board will meet fortnightly at first, and the future of former ED branches in Sheffield, Darlington and Runcorn appears to be secure for the time being. They are to act as venues for meetings in the first year.

The further and higher education and youth training directorate's objectives contain a strong emphasis on the achievement of the new National Education and Training Targets, set out in this year's Competitiveness White Paper. The report identifies four main changes compared with the previous regime: the brigading together of responsibility for the funding and quality of HE and student support with responsibility for promoting HE relevant to labour market needs; pulling together key policies relating to funding, organisation, management, quality and effectiveness of education and training, and of careers education and guidance; pooling responsibility for all academic and vocational qualifications; and coordinated work to promote education/business links.

The objectives reflect the strategy of the DFEE, which wants to bridge the academic/vocational and education/business divides. With some divisional managers having responsibility for developing higher level, work-based qualifications, core skills in HE, and industry links; and a support team drawing together the qualifications framework, the culture of the former ED seems to have settled in the new department.

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