THE Positive Action Group’s recent debate on the forthcoming Freedom of Information (FoI) act was timely.
A good example of the need for an FoI Act here was the process of replacing the Board of Education with the Education Committee.
Your readers will remember that the public were invited to apply for 20 positions on the new committee, whose function was to advise the DoE on educational policy.
No qualifications or experience in education were asked for, but nevertheless, according to my information, there was one school (at least) where the staff were delighted at the prospect of losing the incompetent board members who were constantly interfering in the running of the school, and looked forward to a new body whose members would hopefully be educated and knowledgeable about education.
I know of one woman, lately a senior academic in the University of London, with wide experience of teaching and of academic research, administration and policy making, Manx born and bred and now resident here after taking early retirement, who applied.
Anyone better qualified to guide educational policy in the Isle of Man would be hard to find.
Keen to contribute to her native homeland, she applied in good time and was interviewed.
Imagine her surprise when her application was unsuccessful. She was informed that ‘all 20 places have now been filled’.
The DoE published the names of the successful applicants on its website together with a group photograph. Those who recognize its members will be able to judge how much they know about educational policy making.
I emailed the secretary of the committee asking some relevant questions: How many persons applied for positions on the committee? Which persons formed the interviewing panel? What were the terms of reference of the panel? What mechanism will be used to replace retiring committee members?
I have as yet received no reply.
The suspicion must be that the intention of the DoE was to set up a committee of its favourite stooges who would do the DoE’s bidding in return for a bit of publicity, and that the public invitation was merely an attempt to give the process the appearance of openness.
The mechanisms by which another committee, the one advising on religious education, is appointed and operates appears not to be publicly known.
There are doubtless others.
May the Manx Freedom of Information Act become law as soon as possible.
It is badly needed.
SJ (Jim) HAWKINS