DfE relaunch forces policy experts to reapply for posts

The DfE has published a new version of the Academies Financial Handbook for 2021, rebranded the Academy Trust Handbook.

The Department for Education is “refreshing” its team of experts who inform policy-making – just 18 months after recruiting them.

The department started recruiting 200 “external experts” two years ago under a £10 million contract that was labelled at the time as a “waste of public money”.

About 100 experts have been recruited. But the department is reopening bidding for the Register of External Experts – with new areas of expertise and those on the list having to reapply.

New categories include alternative provision, special educational needs and behaviour, on top of pre-existing policy areas that include general education and university technical colleges.

But the DfE said the estimated £10 million of the original contract had been reduced to £4 million this time.

It had reduced costs as a result of improved procurement and, in the context of Covid-19, it was using far fewer experts in deployments.

On top of the framework’s four areas, the DfE said in a tender document it wanted to recruit in more than 60 areas of expertise.

It was looking for “demonstrable experience specifically gained in the education sector, including school improvement, governance, curriculum, risk, safeguarding, financial and behaviour management and recruitment”.

It also wanted “high-quality expertise” in managing schools estates, early years, alternative provisions, special educational needs and higher and further education.

Appointment to the register did not guarantee the award of any work, the tender reads.

In 2018, the DfE rebutted criticism of the use of money – stating it is  doing “exactly as suggested” by “using experts from the education profession to support the department’s decision-making”.

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