Rees-Mogg threatens to ban ‘absurd’ wellness and diversity courses

Government efficiency minister wants to replace "ridiculous" courses with "sensible" ones
Government efficiency minister Jacob Rees-Mogg. Photo: Allstar/Alamy

By Tevye Markson

04 Jul 2022

Government efficiency minister Jacob Rees-Mogg is planning to ban “ridiculous” training courses offered to civil servants, he has said.

The Cabinet Office minister has said all courses that he believes are “subject to mockery”, and particularly diversity and wellness programmes, will be banned and only “intelligent, sensible” courses will be available in the future.

“There will be a new curriculum coming which will stop these absurd courses being available,” Rees-Mogg said, in an interview with The Telegraph.

Rees-Mogg does not have the power to cancel training run by individual departments but told the newspaper he would write to secretaries of state to ask them to review courses currently offered to officials.

He has also ordered the government’s learning and development hub, the Government Skills and Curriculum Unit, to scrap any “fancy” training programmes and replace them with courses useful to civil servants’ jobs.

The civil service training curriculum was only just updated in January 2021, with the launch of the GSCU.

He highlighted a course run by the Cabinet Office, his own department, called “Check Yo’ Privilege” as an example of the “absurd” type of diversity training that he wants to ban.

The course teaches civil servants to be aware of their privilege when making claims about wider society but Rees-Mogg said it is “politicised”, describing it as equivalent to offering a course called “embracing your inner eurosceptic” run by Nigel Farage.

“Bad, mockable courses undermine our efforts to promote equality,” Rees-Mogg said.

He also questioned whether civil servants are in fact completing the lunchtime courses on their own time, suggesting some are spending their lunch breaks in training and then taking an extra hour to eat. He did not offer any evidence that this claim was anything other than speculation.

“There is work to be done, and there are only so many hours in the day and we want people using their hours productively,” he added.

“Work is a serious place of business to deliver things for taxpayers, who are paying politicians and civil servants for their time. We’ve got to be very careful when this time is used to do fancy courses, or not working at the office.”

Rees-Mogg also picked out a training workshop run by the Government Legal Department where officials were told to imagine a “Japanese gay grandfather” in an exercise on empathy and understanding as a “fancy” and unsuitable course.

He said courses like these “damage the whole ethos of the civil service”.

Civil servants sign up to courses via the learning and development platform run by the Cabinet Office.

All civil servants are entitled to five days’ learning and development per year.  However, the lunchtime courses Rees-Mogg referred to in his comments do not count towards this total and are taken on officials' own time.

Rees-Mogg said courses should “actually help people in their daily work” such as detecting fraud or improving procurement, and should not be “wokery”.

Wokery is defined in the Cambridge Dictionary as “a way of referring to the acts and opinions of people who are especially aware of social problems such as racism and inequality, used by people who do not approve of these acts and opinions”.


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