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UPDATE

In response to questions at a budget consultation meeting on Thursday, Cllr Brigid Jones replied that she has vetoed this plan.

Original post:

According to Paul Dale on The Chamberlain Files website on 6 December, Birmingham City Council is set to pay outsourcing company Capita £500,000 to oversee a major research project into the future of schools. An ‘Education Services Transformation Programme’ will examine how to deliver services against a backdrop of public spending cuts and the rapid growth of independent academies. Capita is already siphoning off massive profits from its £1 billion worth of contracts with the Council to oversee ICT services, at a cost of £120m a year.

A discussion document launched by the council children’s services strategic director, Peter Hay, sets out a six-stage approach to “transform” the way education is delivered in Birmingham and is expected to be approved by the cabinet on December 16. Crucially, the programme will try to broker a deal between the local authority and head teachers about the way in which the Dedicated Schools Grant should be divided and how much of it the council should retain to fulfil its statutory duties. It will also examine how the council can cope with the soaring cost of looking after children with disabilities and learning difficulties. The future of £145 million worth of non-statutory services, including early years’ provision, childcare, some home to school transport services, outdoor learning and business support to schools, will also be under the microscope.

The discussion paper calls for “meaningful and iterative” dialogue with heads and governors and says that the voices of children and young people must be heard “particularly in communities where outputs are poorer”. It continues: “The scale of the challenge and the complex balance of resources and responsibilities mean that a whole system transformation is necessary.”

There are six stages to the programme, which is expected to report recommendations by June 2014. Capita “will ensure that all stakeholders are engaged, deliverables at each stage of the process are sound and the individual cases are synthesised into a coherent overall solution”, according to the education transformation programme document. Capita has agreed that a “robust ethical wall” be put in place to make sure that information gained in supporting the education transformation programme is not leaked to another part of their business, the document notes.

BCASE says:

  • Why so expensive? Why Capita? As David Bailey says in his Birmingham Post blog on December 9, ‘Despite supposedly being broke, Birmingham City Council has just found another half a million quid down the back of the municipal sofa to hand over to Capita.’ ‘Couldn’t a local university have done this at a much lower cost?’
  • Dialogue, yes, but why only with heads and governors? What about with the support staff and their unions?
  • What role will the newly-formed Birmingham Education partnership play in this? Have they been consulted or has it come out of the blue to them too?
  • Who will ensure that Capita’s ‘ethical wall’ hasn’t got a few cracks in it, giving them access to future contracts?
  • And how many BCC services will be outsourced as a result of the ‘Transformation Programme’?
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