From: Sir Humphrey Appleby
To: Bernard Woolley
Let us not be under any illusions here: the service is facing a major crisis. I appreciate the efforts that have been made to undermine the new secretary of state by giving him demonstrably false information to announce in the house, but they will not be enough in themselves and cannot be repeated very often. We need a different approach.
The danger, of course, is that people will come to think that schools and colleges can function without close government supervision. I know that the schools where you and I were educated had no government supervision, but Winchester and Westminster parents are sophisticated and discriminating people who know how they want their children taught. The great mass of the public, alas, are different. They need qualified people to make their choices for them. They need educational institutions whose curriculum, standards and examinations are constructed and applied by their intellectual superiors. They need, in fact, a wealthy Department of Education and a network of generously staffed Local Authorities to produce the next generation of voters and taxpayers.
I trust you see the real threat? If this dangerous idea of academies free from state control were to prove successful, there would be irresistible pressure to dismantle the Local Education Authorities and replace the Department of Education with a small Inspectorate, leaving schools and colleges to be run by governors, staff and parents. They would then be subjected to the horrors of competition, and have to compete to provide the sort of education parents want for their children, rather than the sort their superiors know they should have.
But there is a far greater menace. Once politicians discover that they can save money and gain popularity by abolishing departments, who know where they would stop? The whole basis of the civil service would be threatened. So it absolutely must not be allowed to happen. The purpose of this memo is to urge you to demonstrate to the Prime Minister that the academies plan is (a) too expensive, (b) illegal, (c) impracticable, (d) a vote loser, (e) requires an Act of Parliament and (f) contravenes EU directives. I myself have to preserve the appearance of judicial impartiality, but I think you can guess which side I shall come down on when consulted.
(Sir Humphrey Appleby KCB CVO)
© Sir Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, 18 August 2010
Contact Alan Brodie for permission to use content.
Alan Brodie Representation Ltd
55 Charterhouse Street
London EC1M 6HA
Tel +44 (0)20 7253 6226