Ofqual cancels £80k media recovery plan

Ofqual has abandoned plans to spend £80,000 on media strategists to lead its “recovery plan” following the exams fiasco.

The exams regulator had run a tender to recruit a “senior press office service to provide media advice and strategy”.

The contract for the 15-week project, worth up to £80,000, was due to start this week. But Schools Week can reveal that Ofqual has abandoned the project.

It follows criticism of the regulator by education select committee chair Robert Halfon over its spending on communications.

Halfon questioned the value for money of having a director of communications with 10 staff beneath them at a committee hearing this month. He added: “Why on earth did you hide yourselves away in the Ofqual attic, refuse to reassure anxious parents and the public, and ignore the media across the land, who were trying to explain what was going on?”

The Conservative MP challenged the £80,000 tender, saying that he would look at the spend “at a future date”.

But Ofqual told Schools Week that it has managed to secure “additional capacity” from Ofsted up until Christmas.

A spokesperson added: “Given the progress on these discussions, and after careful consideration, a decision has been made not to take the tendering process forward.”

This follows the drafting in of Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman to oversee a new committee of Ofqual’s board. Under the leadership changes, Dame Glenys Stacey has taken over from Sally Collier as Ofqual’s acting chief regulator.

When questioned by Halfon about the spending, Stacey said that the 10 staff included junior ranks and those involved in writing reports. But she added that she had “got the message loud and clear”.

Ofqual had advertised for a “senior press office service” to deliver a “demand-responsive and resilient service on a full-time basis which will include weekend”. It was also intended to “develop and lead media campaigns and to implement Ofqual’s recovery plan”.