Bureaucracy, bureaucracy everywhere.


Readers of my blog will know that I left the Higher Education sector last July to pursue the life of a capitalist oppressor of the proletariat aka become self-employed. Amongst the many reasons I left were a dislike of the new fees for students and the mind-numbing meetings I had to attend, along with the accompanying bureaucracy. I now know HE is a model of a lean organisation.

After I left, I studied a part-time course to update some skills and, as a consequence, became friendly with the tutor who told me that his organisation was desperately short of qualified people to teach multimedia. I’ve always loved teaching so I thought I’d give it a go by teaching a 16 hr course. The money was attractive and I figured that if it was enjoyable I could do more in the coming years. The work was for a division of my county council and the course would be validated by an evidence-based examining authority.

Firstly, I must say all the people I have met in the division have been highly professional, technically competent and passionate about their work. They really do want to do the best for their learners. Council workers are often portrayed as idle, disinterested folk in the media but nothing could be further from the truth with the people I’ve met. Over the years I’ve seen many organisations at close hand and these people rank with the best.

However, the bureaucracy of council and accreditation board combined is something else. It is a huge, huge waste of resources. I’ll illustrate what I mean with a few examples:

  • 1. I’ve had to have a CRB check even though I’m teaching adults in the 30-50 yr age group who are “normal” i.e. not vulnerable. The council paid for the check but not my time in going to apply for it.
  • 2. I’ve had to do all the assessments as though I was a learner which took ages. Remember, the course is 16 hrs over 8 weeks. I had to do this because the accrediting board require it. They are even going to give me a certificate in what I’m teaching!! Then, of course, it has to be assessed by another member of staff. My time is free (so I found out) but the assessor’s time is not. After that, there is the cost of validating the assessor’s work, producing a certificate and delivering it to me.
  • 3. Apparently, I have to monitor the ethnic diversity of the class and any special needs. This is a council requirement driven by the government’s target-setting. This has to be duly recorded and then used in further statistics. It gives no advantage to any leaner I can think of but it is another weekly cost.
  • 4. I’m supposed to submit lesson plans and continuing professional development plans which will be monitored. This is for a 16 hr course and I’m a Chartered Member of the British Computer Society. Fat chance of that happening btw. No doubt, someone will eventually notice but I’ll be long gone.
  • 5. I’ve had to attend an induction course (unpaid) where many more horrors of bureaucracy were unveiled to me. Online spreadsheets to fill in weekly, forms to fill in, boxes galore to tick. All of which I plan to gleefully ignore:-)

So I’ve found an organisation with great, committed and motivated staff who spend untold (unpaid) hours complying with totally pointless paper targets which have nothing to do with education, teaching or learning in the real world. All of these targets have been dreamt up by politicians at national and local levels in the name of accountability or by the accrediting board for similar reasons.

I will honour my commitment to the council as a matter of professional pride. I will do a good job to the best of my ability because I think the learners deserve it. But I won’t be going back next term because my real hourly rate has fallen below the minimum wage because of all the bureaucracy I have had to deal with. Believe it or not, 8 full days-worth before I walk into class. On a trivial level, learners in my county will be deprived of my teaching and technical competence while I won’t be doing something I enjoy.

However, there is a real issue here. My experience must be multiplied a thousandfold across the country, unknown numbers of staff check all the dots are above the i’s, CRB checks are done for no reason, endless statistics are compiled about ethnic background/learning ability/sexuality/CPD and inquests and initiatives are born if targets aren’t met. Its all a huge waste of money which does not benefit the learners by one iota but deprives them of the latest kit because there is no money to pay for it. As a country we really must stop this waste. The solution is simple: employ professionals and trust them to get on with the job for a minimum of five years without any political interference. Then review the system and make sensible improvements if needed.

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About ReidIvinsMedia

After working for many years in Higher Education I've decided to drop out and join, eventually, the self-employed. Here I blog about my interests which include education, politics, backpacking, poker, photography and real ale.
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2 Responses to Bureaucracy, bureaucracy everywhere.

  1. quietzaple says:

    Obviously irksome to record information when you enjoy teaching, and what you submit may be used for what the decision makers hope is the benefit of others, possibly yourself.

    The CRB checks have been much pilloried: might you teach those less confident, disabled or otherwise possible objects of potential abuse by a teacher of other tastes and lower ethical standards?

    There may be cases for suspending some other of the recording required of you. Not that IMHO.

    Worth recalling that Weber found advantages in a bureaucratic mode of organisation, which you could summarise as not being as susceptible to cronyism of various kinds as it’s predecessors.

    Look as Boris Johnson’s idiosyncratic Deputy Mayor choices (he inherited at least one) and the results of his cockamamie utterly awful judgements of people. Could have been worse, his choice as Dep Mayor for Young People Ray Lewis was only weeded out because churchmen who knew him said: “Whooah!”

    • I won’t deny that there is a need for records to be kept for worthwhile things. However, the question is what is worthwhile? Is it relevant for CPD records to be filled in for someone doing 16 hrs work? Why do I need to know someone’s ethnic background to teach them or, indeed, have to ask them for the info when it has already been collected once? There are so many examples of pointless data collection which, cumulatively, add up to an immense amount of work for no reason other than to justify a target which helps nobody. I know of two organisations that have asked a female friend if she is a lesbian. Who cares? Surely, can she do the job is the question that should be asked?

      CRB: The road to hell is paved with good intentions. I give a detailed critique here https://reidivinsmedia.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/crb-checks-wont-someone-please-think-of-the-adults/

      Bureaucratic organisations: all organisations that grow become bureaucratic to try and keep control of the key processes. Its the nature of the beast but it has to be contained. Go to any company and you’ll see a plethora of forms to be filled in, processes to follow and regulations to abide by. Nearly of them developed using the “just in case” and “cover our asses” argument; got a computer or want to work outside? You’ll need a risk assessment. Fair enough if you are a steeplejack but to use a computer?

      As regards cronyism, my experience is it happens anyway in any organisations. Its obvious to me that people will appoint, and promote, people that they like and trust regardless of whatever system is in place. I certainty would not promote anyone I disliked or distrusted, much less hire them in the first place.

      I know nothing of Boris Johnson other than he was a journalist and MP but is now the Mayor of London so I can’t comment.

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