Sunday, January 15, 2006

Another Terrifying Shambles

You're a headteacher. It's Sunday night and you've been watching the hysteria over paedophile teachers with mounting anxiety. Maths is a difficult subject to recruit for, and Mr Boggis seemed OK.

But then again...

Have all the forms been filled in, and the boxes ticked? With the press in full cry, best to make sure. You couldn't expect any help from the education authorities- right now they need to throw some raw meat to the dogs quickly, and you could well be it.

Better check. Right away.

But how?

Onto the DfES website and search for List 99. Of course, you've heard of the List before now- possibly from one of the million DfES circulars you get every month. But what exactly it is, and how it're still unclear.

The first couple of search links are clearly directed at Supply Agencies and not you. But what of the third- "URGENT: CRIMINAL RECORD BUREAU: ARRANGEMENTS FOR CHECKS ON STAFF". Sounds right on the button, so you bring it up.

And what you get is three pages of this:

In case you can't see, it's not so much "URGENT ARRANGEMENTS" as an indecisive, incomprehensible, contradictory, struck-through, underlined, multi-coloured, total effin' shambles.

You're completely on your own.

Which of course, is pretty well where Ruth Kelly finds herself tonight.

It's not that Ruth's a bad person per se, but as Matthew D'Ancona points out:

"What Mr Reeve's case has disclosed fully is an unbelievable thicket of bureaucracy, failed communication and downright idiocy, a system apparently tailor-made for the devious paedophile in its provision of convenient loopholes.

If there is a single lesson to be drawn from last week's scandalous disclosures, it is that politicians are not fit to make discretionary judgments about those who represent a risk to children.

And how can a modern government, responsive to public anxieties and proud of its supposedly "joined up" policies, not know how many registered sex offenders will be working in classrooms and school gyms this week? If only this were all Ms Kelly's fault. As far as I can see, the whole lot of them are to blame."

We need to remember this case because it so clearly exposes the sham at the heart of big government managerialism. Organisations as big and unaccountable to customers as our nationalised education and health systems are organisations that cannot work.

They're nearly always a shambles.

And sometimes they're downright dangerous.

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