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ESF - Extraordinarily Stupid & Foolish

Yesterday the executive committee of the English Schools Foundation voted against the appointment of Mike Haynes as chief executive, thus rejecting the advice of the ESF chairman and vice-chairman, who promptly resigned.

The original decision to select Mr Haynes for the job was highly controversial because (1) he was a member of the committee that was set up to make a recommendation, (2) he had no background in education, and (3) none of the three panels of stakeholders recommended him after the interviews. The decision was made by a sub-committee including the ESF chairman and vice-chairman, who concluded that he was the best man for the job.

Normally this recommendation would have meant that Mr Haynes would get the job, but a highly effective campaign by a group of concerned parents led to a rather unexpected outbreak of democracy. This seems to have distressed Mr Haynes and another un-named source, who feel that it has made the organization "impossible to manage" (quote from the SCMP). Sure, democracy can be inconvenient if you are autocratic and think you know best, but life seems to carry on fairly normally once everyone has got over the shock of being accountable.

If the decision to appoint Mr Haynes was questionable, the attitude of the chairman and vice-chairman to questions from parents was even more high-handed and arrogant. The only arguments put forward to defend the decision were that the results of psychometric tests showed Mr Haynes was an ideal candidate; the need for a businessman to take charge of the operation; and the fact that the sub-committee had decided he was the best candidate. Hardly convincing stuff! It eventually emerged that Mr Haynes left school at 16 and didn't have a degree, and that the "insurance company" he managed was actually a small brokerage - hardly the senior corporate executive that the ESF had been talking about.

It is hard to comprehend how the chairman and vice-chairman of the ESF couldn't see that both the process and their recommendation were open to question. [This reminds me somewhat of the mistakes made by the BBC's board of governors, who dug themselves into a very deep hole by refusing to even consider the possibility that the organization might have made a mistake in the way they reported doubts about the Iraqi dossier.] Surely, anyone looking objectively at the facts would be able to see that there was something wrong?

If the ESF was a private company controlled by the chairman then it would be par for the course to appoint someone in this way, but when you are running a non-profit organization that exists solely to provide education, funded by the government and parents, then you have an obligation to ensure that everything is done properly.


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