Leading Article: Departmental confusion?

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The Independent Online

At first sight, there would seem to be a number of positives in the Prime Minister's decision to split his education department into two. First, the new Department for Children, Schools and Families, which will be responsible for all education up to the age of 19, is simply reorganising central government in a way that has already happened with children's services up and down the country. It should lead to better joined-up thinking about how to deliver the range of services for children. Second, it is good to have at least two ministerial voices at Cabinet level – Ed Balls for schools and John Denham for higher education – able to speak on education issues (or three, if you count Beverley Hughes as Children's Minister). Certainly, this will be an advantage for higher education.

Having said that, there do appear to be some areas where the issues have not been thought through. Take further education. Education up to 19 is financed by the Children, Schools and Families department, so GCSE and A-level work will be funded by it. But the programmes for mature learners will come from the grandly named Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills.

Similar problems exist with the showpiece of the Government's education reforms – the new diplomas for 14- to 19-year-olds – which are designed to give a lift to vocational education. Obviously, they come under the remit of the Children, Schools and Families department, too. However, the diplomas are being designed in partnership with business, so their content would seem to come under the jurisdiction of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. The diplomas will not be successful unless higher education approves of them and offers students with diploma qualifications places. That, again, would appear to be a role for DIUS.

Confused? You bet. So are many people, both in the world of further education and among those responsible for delivering the qualifications. The joined-up thinking that linked children's services under one roof seems to be absent. This issue needs to be addressed and some clear demarcation lines drawn up as soon as possible. Otherwise, we will not be the only ones asking what the DIUS is going on here.

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