A characteristic of the British Council, when faced with evidence of fault, is denial. Then when evidence is pointed out again they tend to say that they have already dealt with the matter, and with “no new evidence” can see no reason to reconsider. It’s bad faith incarnate. If it moves, bury it, and if it moves again, just shovel on more dirt. And keep going until it stops moving.
Regulars will recognise the story that follows, but we hope will enjoy the angle.
In January 2002 the British Council sent out a circular to all accredited schools and colleges in the EFL sector which said “After a rigorous selection procedure, the British Council entered into a contractual partnership with a consortium led by Hotcourses to develop the Education UK website and associated databases. The other consortium members are UCAS, CSU and Yahoo.” We now know that this statement was grossly misleading as in fact the British Council had contracted not with these organisations but with a new £100 company, and the contract the British Council signed in 2001 specifically excluded UCAS and CSU from any involvement, and Yahoo had no involvement at all. Not even a mention. This was, remember, a leading statement about the British Council’s role in the much heralded (to this day even) “Prime Minister’s Initiative”. For a while the statement was also posted on the main British Council website. And it was junk.
The £100 company the British Council contracted with in 2001 was “Education Websites Ltd”. But hang on, if you go to the Companies House “webcheck” and do a little search for this company (7am to midnight Monday to Saturday), you’ll find that Education Websites Ltd was first incorporated on January 4th 2005. This was, coincidentally, the same day that I emailed the British Council FOI division asking for a copy of their Education UK web contract. Got that? The British Council contract for the lead product in the “Prime Minister’s Initiative” signed in 2001 was with a company that was apparently incorporated 4 years later.
So how did they do it? Does the British Council employ time travellers? In this case, we can reveal that the explanation is more mundane. The company that was formed on January 4th 2005 was actually called Remone Ltd, and on March 31st 2005 Remone Ltd swapped names with the original Education Websites Ltd, which had been incorporated in September 2001, a few days before the Education UK contract was signed.
I’m probably just being old fashioned. You say one thing and mean another, invoke the PM, tell the whole UK education sector – universities, FE Colleges, language schools, prep schools etc - a story, give ‘em “rigorous selection”, “consortium”, “Yahoo”, make it up as you go along. Nothing too much wrong with that I suppose – you might do the same: swap names with somebody else, with me for example, well, just for a bit of fun. Neighbours might raise an eyebrow, but what do they know. There might be a bit of an issue with passports or credit cards or voting or buying a ticket to fly abroad, but what the hell, that’s a detail. It would surely be churlish to smell a rat – we’re decent, respectable people. Some of us even have gongs.
If you want to dig out information today about the company that the British Council contracted in September 2001, you have to look not for Education Websites Ltd but for Remone Ltd. But that company is no longer there. Which means job done. Part of the evidence of this ridiculous British Council charade - the “rigorous selection”, the “consortium”, the ghost of Yahoo etc. - has been buried. That key piece in the “Prime Minister’s Initiative” jigsaw has gone. No doubt the dirt shovellers started to lean on their shovels and relax some time ago.
Except of course that the zombie audit trail is there should anybody need to dig it up. And it won’t go away.
So, British Council, beware the zombie. Be afraid, be very afraid.