Radical plans by Michael Gove to cut the Department for Education in half will result in a disproportionate number of redundancies among minority ethnic, disabled and older staff, leaked documents show. An internal review of 3,781 departmental staff – which has been handed to the Guardian – shows that one in eight workers define themselves as black or from an ethnic minority. But more than one in three workers described as putting in an unsatisfactory performance are non-white and likely to be sacked. Nearly 15% of staff identified by managers as underperforming have a disability, while only 6% of all staff are registered as disabled.
Civil servants who are over 50 are less likely to receive a performance award and more likely to receive an unsatisfactory rating, the report concludes.
The disclosures have emerged as the education secretary plans to make 1,000 career civil servants redundant within two years. According to the proposals, low performers will be “speedily managed out”.
The leaked “performance management equalities review”, conducted in April and released to senior managers last month, provides equalities data for all staff across the department. It examines the background of departmental staff from the lowest-grade workers, paid around £20,000 as executive assistants, up to grade-six civil servants such as deputy directors who are paid more than £70,000 a year, and compares each worker with their annual performance review. It includes staff in Whitehall as well as nine regional offices.
Under “Issues to note”, the report states: “Black and minority ethnic staff are less likely to receive a performance reward and more likely to receive an unsatisfactory rating.”
According to the figures, 60% of staff – 2,285 – described themselves as white compared with 12%, or 443, who described themselves as black or minority ethnic. More than 1,000 staff did not declare their racial background. But of the 42 staff whose performance is described as “unsatisfactory” and who declare their ethnicity, 24 are white while 18 are black or from a minority ethnic background.
Around 214 civil servants – or 6% of staff – described themselves as disabled, while 1,882, or 50%, said they were able-bodied. Nearly 45% did not declare. But 14.7% of staff labelled as giving an unsatisfactory performance are registered as disabled.
The report also shows that 35% of all staff described by managers as poor workers are over the age of 50.
Union officials fear that it will be minority employees who will be expected to lose their jobs in a redundancies programme.
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union, which represents civil servants, said the disclosures showed that minorities would be hit hardest by Gove’s plans. “While the education secretary, Michael Gove, is busy playing politics with people’s lives and the education of our children, workers could face the sack as a direct result of a discriminatory performance management system. We believe this system should be scrapped immediately,” he said.
Gove plans to reduce the department’s running costs with cuts to the department’s total workforce. Almost a third of the remaining staff will switch between teams on time-limited projects. If successful, the plans could be rolled out across other departments. Six regional offices are to be shut: Darlington, Runcorn, Bristol, Guildford, Histon and Nottingham.
Gove is reported to have won approval from cabinet colleagues to test more radical changes after voicing frustration at the limited scope of Whitehall-wide reforms announced in June.
The Department of Education said: “In common with other organisations, this is a challenge that we have already taken steps to address. We have brought in new performance management policies and we are actively monitoring outcomes to identify where further support or training is needed.”