Taking Ofsted into the Dragon’s Den

West Cumbrian Liberal Democrat Rebecca Hanson will be heading into the Dragon’s Den for policy at 07:35 this Saturday (8th March 2014) at the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference in York.  She’ll be fighting to get her policy for reform to regulation in state education and healthcare into the 2015 manifesto.  She’ll speak for three minutes and will then be subject to intensive questions and scrutiny.  The text of the speech she’ll be making follows:

Dragon’s Den for Policy: Rebecca Hanson – Regulation in the State Sector – 8th March 2014

“Most of our modern regulators were set up rapidly in the 1980s and 1990s.  By the time they’d been operating for a decade or so the strengths and weaknesses of each were apparent.  Rather than trying to address the issues with each regulator individually, in 2005 the then government commissioned a holistic review of all regulation.  Its findings went on to become the foundations of the regulators code of best practice.

I am proposing that we apply the standards for regulation defined in the regulators code, which are now well established in the private and charitable sectors, to the state sector and in particular to education, children services and healthcare.

This policy would prevent inappropriate political interference in the activity of our regulators.  It end the use of special measures in cases where more targeted action would be sufficient.  It would require regulators to clearly define what is and isn’t acceptable practice and the idea that ‘satisfactory is the new unsatisfactory’ would be consigned to the dustbin of history where studies on good practice in regulation show it belongs.

This policy, in its earlier forms, has the unanimous support of the northwest region and is also supported by the education association committee who have put it forward for consideration today.   I’ve submitted it to federal conference and have received very positive feedback with the only reason given for it not going forward being that it wouldn’t generate controversy in debate as it was expected that all liberal democrats would support it.  But this policy needs explicit support as it will not happen by accident.  It will require the attention of a government over a parliamentary term.  Although the relevant law was created in 2006 it wasn’t until the end of 2009 that most regulatory activity was subject to this legal framework as regulators needed time, consistent policy and coherent oversight to adapt their practice.

Unless there is coherent progress towards high quality and defensible regulation in the public sector the government will always be on the back foot when dealing with the justifiable complaints about the failings of Ofsted and the CQC, and we know from experience that ministers who do not have well grounded policy in place respond with powerful, knee-jerk actions which put more draconian and unaccountable power into the hands of people far from the front line.

This is exactly the kind of policy which clearly defines our identity as liberal democrats because it is an essential component of our desire to ensure that intelligent and responsible professionals all sectors of society are allowed the levels of professional freedom they need to function effectively.

Please support it both today and in the future.”

David Laws 3

Rebecca Hanson explaining the policy for public sector reform to David Laws MP (Minister of State for Schools) at the National College for Teaching and Learning.

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