Purdah adds further delay to 5 late government consultations

Ministers are yet to respond to five consultations on new reforms as government shuts down for purdah, including one aimed at helping Theresa May’s “ordinary working families” that is more than two years late.

With a total of four years of delays between them, other consultations cover fire safety in schools, launched after the Grenfell fire, and safeguarding youngsters in out-of-school settings.

With the Department of Education now in purdah – the pre-election period during which public bodies have to act in a politically neutral manner – it is unlikely responses will be issued before the end of the year.

Government guidance states that all departments should publish consultation responses within 12 weeks.

But a response for the Analysing family circumstances and education consultation, launched in April 2017, is now overdue by 753 days – or more than two years.

Justine Greening (pictured), a former education secretary, said the consultation was about investigating how reforms could better support “ordinary working families”.

It was part of Theresa May’s priority while prime minister to help “just-about-managing” families or “Jams”.

The consultation seeks views on the methods the government uses to analyse the household income and educational outcomes of pupils in England.

To count in the “Jams” group, children must come from families earning below the median income, but who do not qualify for free school meals. About one in three children falls into the category.

At the time of the launch, May’s government was proposing new selective schools to support “young people from every background, not the privileged few”.

Greening used analysis in the consultation to shore up its argument, stating that grammar schools were helping children from “ordinary families” and critics should “not lose sight of the fact”.

The research found children “are as likely to be from ordinary working families as children in non-selective schools, demonstrating that grammar schools are not just for the wealthy”.

The government is also yet to respond to its Design for fire safety in schools consultation, with a response nearly three months behind schedule.

In light of the Grenfell Tower fire, in which 72 people died, the government sought expert advice as to whether guidelines needed to be updated.

The consultation reviews Building Bulletin 100, the technical guidance for those designing and building schools.

While the consultation acknowledges “schools are already very safe buildings in the event of a fire” the technical review looks to ensure every effort is made to mitigate risk.