A call for ministers to create a new civil service learning-and-development institution to “fill the void” left by the closure of the National School of Government has been rejected.
The demand was made by parliament’s Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee as part of a wide-ranging report on strategic leadership and sustaining future capability, published in July.
MPs said that neither Civil Service Learning, nor the new academies system for professions, had fully replaced the NSG, which closed in 2012. They called for the creation of a new institution, based in a permanent location, that built on the successes of the Civil Service Leadership Academy – set up in 2017 to provide development opportunities for Senior Civil Servants.
However, in its response to the PACAC proposal, the government said ministers are “confident” that the current model is the most effective one for the civil service today and that a balance of “centralised and decentralised provision” is appropriate.
“The National School of Government was of its time, and the learning ecosystem model we have implemented since its closure is reflective of modern workplaces and best practice,” it said.
“In our complex system, a single institution would not meet the needs of a diverse organisation or enable civil servants to develop the spectrum of capability needed in the modern civil service.
“The new CSLA will develop a world-class leadership capability for the civil service through direct delivery of programmes and providing coordination and a centre of excellence with departments and professions across government.
“Whether in a single home or in a number of excellent facilities across the UK, the CSLA will meet the challenge of leadership development for the present and future civil service.”
While saluting the creation of the CSLA as “welcome recognition” of need for a dedicated body to address leadership capability in the civil service, PACAC warned that it was “imperative” to give the organisation a firmer footing and criticised the government’s “piecemeal” approach.
The government set out a timeline for CSLA’s further development, but accepted it was still “exploring” whether its programme should be delivered from a single location, or on a regional basis with the support of a small central hub.
PACAC’s recommendations also included the creation of a “Policy Academy” to support the the government policy profession.
The official response said the creation of such an academy would be considered as part of the ongoing Policy Profession 2025 project which was being led by five senior departmental heads of profession, and which is due to report at the end of March.