Commenting on the report (1) by the House of Commons International Development Committee into the decision to merge the Department for International Development (DfID) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“The NEU agrees with the Committee that this rushed decision to merger, taken under cover of the Covid-19 pandemic, is likely to have dire consequences.

“The merger will do untold damage to Britain’s reputation on the global stage and will set back the steps taken towards implementation of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) to which we are committed as a nation. Progress towards SDG4, which sets the ambition of a good quality education for every child by 2030, has been reversed since the spread of Covid.

“Before the pandemic, 258 million children – half of whom were girls – were out of school across the world. Globally, over 65% of school-age children and young people have been impacted by school closures as a result of the pandemic. Save the Children warned just a few days ago that almost 10 million of the poorest and most vulnerable children and young people may never return to school (2).

“DfID enjoyed an enviable reputation internationally and the Government should have deployed its expert staff to tackle the persistent education inequalities that are being made worse by the pandemic, particularly in girls’ access to education, and to build back better with a focus on tackling the climate crisis and the growing digital divide. This damaging and unnecessary merger stands in the way of that approach.

“The NEU agrees with one of the main findings of the Committee’s report that “poverty reduction must continue being at the heart of the Government’s aid strategy, ensuring projects are targeted at the world’s poorest and most vulnerable”. Education remains the single most effective route out of poverty and the Government must ensure UK aid supports the development and expansion of sustainable high-quality public education as a key priority.”


Editor’s note

  1. House of Commons International Development Committee: DFID and FCO merger.
  2. Save Our Education, Save the Children (July 2020).