Conflict of interest warning over Regional Schools Commissioner advisors

Specialist contractors recruited by the government to help regional schools commissioners improve schools are facing questions over potential conflicts of interest.

The Department for Education (DfE) has awarded contracts totalling £12 million to 93 contractors to support the academies and free schools programme.

In total, regional schools commissioners (RSCs) can call on a pool of about 400 advisers across the 93 contractors.

However an education consultant, who did not want to be named, highlighted a potential conflict of interest. He said two of the firms are primarily involved in recruiting staff and selling software, not school improvement.

The consultant added: “Looking through the list of specialist contractors … I admit to being surprised.

“Understanding how those organisations came to be regarded as experts in this field [school improvement] would provide a very useful insight for policy makers.”

Just last week the education committee, as part of its RSC inquiry, welcomed the work of these contractors.

But, it said: “We recommend that the government review the amount of information currently in the public domain about their identity, appointment, work, monitoring and impact, with a view to improving transparency.”

Contractors must ensure their conduct is in line with the civil service code’s principles of “honesty, integrity, impartiality and objectivity”.

Should a contractor break this clause – including by making “inappropriate sales approaches to schools” – the DfE says it will cancel the deal.


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