Education quango paid out £4m to get rid of 97 staff

MORE than £4 million was spent on staff “exit packages” to help create the quango charged with delivering Scotland’s new school curriculum, a report has found.

Education Scotland’s annual report said 97 staff received redundancy and early severance packages when the body was formed last year following the merger of HM Inspectorate of Education (HMIE) and Learning Teaching Scotland (LTS).

Bernard McLeary, the former chief executive of LTS, left in June last year with a pension of £50,000 to £55,000, a lump sum payment of £135,000 to £140,000 and a £91,000 voluntary severance payment.

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The report also revealed that Bill Maxwell, Education Scotland’s chief executive, is paid a salary of £110,000.

The organisation came in for criticism earlier this year after a “deep audit” of readiness for the country’s new exams was labelled “ridiculously shallow” by teaching unions.

The new national qualifications, which will replace standard grades in Scotland’s schools, are being introduced next year.

Concerns have also been raised about Education Scotland’s role in both producing curriculum material and carrying out inspections into how it is being taught.

The organisation’s 2011-12 report reveals that a total of 97 staff received “exit packages” in the course of the merger – 37 from HMIE and 27 from LTS, amounting to £2,821,000.

A further 33 staff received packages from Education Scotland itself the following year, costing £1,340,000.

The annual accounts also show the organisation has spent £5m on outside contractors and £3.2m on travel and development so far.

The overall bill for travel, consultants, advisers, contractors, conferences and seminars since 2010 was about £10.3m.

However, the report also showed the cost of the organisation had fallen, with resource expenditure dropping from £6.6m from £37.7m in 2010-11 to £31.1m in 2011-12 – £1.5m less than the body’s overall budget of £32.6m. Its budget for the current year is down further to £27.12m.

Dr Maxwell said: “This report provides an overview of the progress made in setting up the new agency, and our success in delivering on our strategic objectives at this early stage in our development. Already, we have demonstrated how we can play a key role in driving improvement and fostering innovation in the education system.

“I am grateful to our excellent staff and to our many key partner organisations for helping ensure that we hit the ground running. Since then, the pace has certainly not let up, both in terms of our work on ensuring effective implementation of Curriculum for Excellence and other key national policy priorities, and with regard to our own internal change programme.”

Earlier this year, an internal survey of staff working for Education Scotland found one in ten said they had been bullied at work. Just over a third thought the quango was well managed.

Although many employees responded positively about the job they were asked to do, 6 per cent of staff said they wanted to leave “as soon as possible”, and 15 per cent said they hoped to leave within the next year.

The survey, carried out late last year, found fewer than half were proud to work for Education Scotland, with only 22 per cent saying that changes were usually made for the better.