Education & Family

School Food Trust faces quango axe

Jamie Oliver
Image caption The trust was set up after Jamie Oliver's campaign

The School Food Trust - set up under Labour after the Jamie Oliver campaign - could lose its government funding, a leaked document suggests.

The body, charged with improving school meals, is on a list of quangos being targeted for cuts seen by the BBC's Politics Show.

The document says the trust should become an independent charity.

Schools could be hit by strikes over the proposal to axe an education quango advising on the pay of support staff.

Seventeen organisations funded by the Department for Education appear on the leaked list of arms-length bodies (quangos).

Strike call

The Student Loans Company also features on the list - with the note "still to be decided".

It runs the student support system for the government.

The document says the School Support Staff Negotiating Body should be abolished. The organisation was set up last year and is similar to the Pay Review Body for Teachers, which advises ministers on teachers' pay.

The body had been developing a national framework of pay and conditions to cover about 500,000 school support staff in England, including teaching assistants, school secretaries, caretakers and nursery nurses.

Unison, which represents many school support staff, says it will consult members on industrial action.

Christina McAnea, from Unison, said: "This displays the utter contempt this coalition government has for low-paid workers, trade unions and in particular for the staff in schools delivering essential education services.

"We have been asking them since May to talk to us about this. They say publicly they want to maintain an education partnership with all the unions representing school staff, yet we hear this news through the media.

"School support staff are predominantly low-paid women who are committed and passionate about their job and this government demonstrates their utter contempt for them by refusing to even meet the unions to discuss this."

Teachers TV

Announcements have already been made about the abolition of some of the bodies on the leaked list - notably the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency, which develops the school curriculum and runs national tests for England and Becta (British Educational Communications and Technology Agency), which was charged with promoting the good use of technology in schools.

It was also known that the General Teaching Council for England - the professional body to which all state school teachers had to belong - was being scrapped.

Teachers TV features on the list, next to a proposal to abolish its board, which was set up to maintain the independence of the organisation.

Funding for Teachers TV was recently cut and in September it stopped broadcasting on TV channels and went solely online.

Clare Healy, chief executive of Teachers TV said: "The list refers to the Teachers TV board which is a separate entity. Teachers TV in itself is not on the leaked list and we cannot comment on these speculations.

"Teachers TV continues to deliver cost-effective online videos, resources and interactive content that helps the education workforce to be effective as possible."

Also apparently earmarked for abolition is the Independent Advisory Group on Teenage Pregnancy. It was set up in 2000 to advise the government on how to cut teenage pregnancy and ensure teenage parents continue with their education.

The government is not confirming the proposals outlined in the leaked document.

'Still to be decided'

The Communities Secretary Eric Pickles told the BBC the government had not "come to a firm view with regard to the numbers" but would be making an announcement "reasonably soon".

The School Food Trust says it is waiting on the outcome of the government's review into arms-length bodies and cannot comment on leaks or speculation.

But a spokesman added: "Regardless of the outcome of the review the School Food Trust remains committed to this incredibly important agenda not least because of the huge economic, health and social costs of child obesity".

Earlier this year, the coalition government told it to cut its spending on marketing and communications by £1m - about 10% of its annual budget.

The trust's website says it was registered as a charity in April 2007.

Schools inspectors Ofsted and the curriculum and exams regulator Ofqual both appear on the list with notes "retain (impartial) and subject to substantial reform".

Changes to both organisations had already been flagged up by the Education Secretary Michael Gove.

The future appears to be secure for the body which advises the government on teachers' pay - the School Teachers Review Body. It features on the list alongside the note: "Retain (impartial)".

But the future of seven more organisations funded by the Department for Education remains less clear.

Listed as "still to be decided" are:

  • The Office of the Children's Commissioner
  • National College for Leadership of Schools and Children's Services
  • Partnership for Schools
  • Children's Workforce Development Council
  • Training and Development Agency for Schools
  • Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service
  • Young People's Learning Agency

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