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Back to School for ‘Sir Humphrey’


The National School of Government is setting up a new centre offering officials masterclasses in how to understand and support ministers.

The new centre plans to give officials the skills, confidence and understanding they need to support ministers.

Christopher Jary, head of the new Centre for Working with Ministers & Parliament, says that politicians are often frustrated at the quality of service they receive, and especially with written materials.

He said: “If asked, ministers complain that speeches and briefings drafted for them are often boring, too detailed, too long, miss the main point, are full of management-speak, and riddled with abbreviations and acronyms. But, if ministers think that civil servants can’t write well for them, they are wrong. There is masses of writing talent in the Civil Service, but releasing it requires individuals to have greater professional confidence based on a solid understanding of ministers’ needs.”

The new centre will offer officials training in what ministers and Parliament need and why, as well as help briefing and drafting speeches and replies to Parliamentary Questions and letters from MPs and the public. The Centre also helps officials prepare for Select Committee appearances.

Jary added: “We know what ministers want and need, and we know how to help officials give it to them. If we can improve the Service’s professional confidence and skill in this work, we’ll have contributed directly to better, more accountable government. And, in our view, nothing’s more important than that.”


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