Magazine article Public Finance

Ofsted Chief Slams Whitehall Culture

Magazine article Public Finance

Ofsted Chief Slams Whitehall Culture

Article excerpt

The chair of Ofsted has launched a stinging attack on civil service governance, culture and practices, suggesting that Whitehall is risk averse and unable to deal with failure.

Zenna Atkins claimed that there was an unwritten civil service code. '[There is a] behaviour of niceness - it is more important that you have signed your letter correctly than the content of your letter. That is utterly crippling,' she said.

'There is absolutely no sense of who the customer is. We are obsessed with inputs, structures, organisations and systems, not outcomes and not on customers.'

Atkins, who is a social entrepreneur and also chairs the Places for People housing group, was addressing a conference organised by the Reform think-tank - 'A new government agenda' - on November 10.

She stressed that she was speaking in a personal capacity, but gave examples of the problems she had encountered since becoming Ofsted chair in 2006. 'I made the mistake quite early on by asking what Ofsted's view was on school homework. It took seven people four weeks to get me an answer that was impenetrable,' she said. …

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