Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Power And Irresponsibility - A Message From Sir Terence

Shocked and disgusted

First of all, let me say that I deeply regret the inconvenience caused by issues around the Trusco Slimfast Elvis BurgerTM readymeal for one. I am personally shocked and disgusted that the suppliers incorporated into the product eight times the Recommended Daily Allowance for calories, twelve times the RDA for saturated fat, and an extraordinary 123 times the RDA for mechanically recovered grey squirrel meat. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who've misguidedly consumed this item.

Of course, as you will understand, I am unable to make a formal apology. That's for the simple reason it is not my responsibility. No, the production and sale of the Slimfast Elvis BurgerTM is entirely a matter between the manufacturers (Global Squirrel Corp of Memphis), and Trusco's Head of Readymeals, Mr Swindley. There is a complex contractural arrangement in place between them, and on legal advice I can say no more.

Except to underline the main point. Which is that any problems are nothing whatsoever to do with me.

Your humble and obedient servant

Sir Terence T

Chief Executive
Trusco plc


We've blogged about Tesco Government many times (eg here).

In the world of Tesco Government, the buck stops with Sir Terry Leahy. No ifs, no buts - if there's a problem with a Tesco product, it's his responsibility. Nobody cares if he delegated the job of product ordering to some underling, or that a subcontractor let them down - as far as customers and shareholders are concerned, he's the one who remains on the hook.

It's a key principle of management -


So Sir Terry can certainly make Mr Swindley Head of Readymeals, and he can certainly give Mr Swindley wide authority to order products from suppliers. But whatever he does, he cannot escape his final responsibility for the results.

It's tough being responsible for the actions of underlings, but it goes with being the boss. If you can't handle that, you can't be the boss.

Now compare and contrast with the latest disaster to hit our dysfunctional state education industry - the SATS fiasco (see this blog). Far from stepping up to accept responsibility, Education CEO Liar Balls has disappeared from view altogether, and his hopeless departmental manager Jim Knight claims he can say nothing because it's all down to the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and their contract with sub-contractor ETS.

Once again, our politicos are quite happy to push themselves forward to decide what's best for us, but they run a mile when it goes wrong. It's always someone else's fault, even if it is they themselves who appointed that someone else and made all the key decisions over what that someone should be doing.

Sir Terry could never get away with this - his shareholders would have his head on a pikestaff somewhere along the Limehouse Link before you could say reputational damage.

So... er... why do we put up with ignorant spineless unaccountable politicos running our public services again? How dare they presume to tell us how to educate our children?

PS Does anyone actually believe the SATs results? Here's how the DCSF reckons results at Key Stage 2 (age 11) have improved since their introduction in 1995. We plot the combined scores for Level 4 (a pass) and the higher level 5:

Isn't that amazing? A virtually unbroken record of improvement, with nearly 90% of our pupils now budding Einsteins in science.

The reality of course - as we've blogged many times - is that teachers now teach to the test, as always happens with such "high stakes" tests. The rapid improvement in the first few years was simply a reflection of teachers learning how to do it, and nothing to do with children's real underlying achievement at all. And teachers have now got even better at it, focussing ever-increasing time on those pupils just below the key pass mark (Level 4), to the detriment both of the hopeless cases at the absolute bottom, and the most able who can pass easily. It's called target triage (blogged here), and it's reflected this year in a fall in the proportion scoring the top Level 5 marks - because the key score on which the teachers and schools themselves are judged is the percentage who pass at least Level 4 (see here).

PPS As we noted previously, the Key Stage 2 SATs results are such a poor reflection of a child's ability that many secondary schools retest the kids on entry to find out what they are really capable of. They do so because they are concerned about their "value added" scores - the government marks they get for how much they lift the kids' achievements between entry and GCSEs. Clearly, if they accept a load of spuriously high KS2 scores on entry, and the kids actually turn out to be duffers, it's very bad for "value added". Or as Mick Brookes of the National Association of Head Teachers put it on Tuesday's World At One, crap KS2 scores cause a "contextual value added circumstance". No, I swear - he really did say that. I wrote it down. It's almost as good as Mr Presley suffering that "terminal event on the commode".

1 comment:

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