DfE policy adviser lined up as next Ofqual head

Education secretary picks Jo Saxton as preferred candidate to be chief regulator at exams watchdog
Jo Saxton Credit: RSA

By Jim Dunton

21 Jun 2021

Education secretary Gavin Williamson has picked one of his own policy advisers as preferred candidate to be chief regulator at exams watchdog Ofqual.

Dr Jo Saxton currently works at the Department for Education, advising on a range of policies from academy expansion to qualifications. She describes herself as “adviser to secretary of state for education at Department for Education” on her LinkedIn profile.

Saxton will be the permanent successor to Sally Collier, who quit as Ofqual head in August last year following the A-level and GCSE results fiasco caused by the use of algorithm-derived grades as a substitute for exams and coursework because of the pandemic. Simon Lebus has subsequently served as interim Ofqual head.

Saxton’s appointment has been endorsed by prime minister Boris Johnson, but she still needs to undergo a pre-appointment hearing before MPs on the Education Select Committee. It is due to take place on 6 July.

Williamson said Saxton had been selected for the role of chief regulator following an open recruitment competition and assessment process led by a panel and conducted in accordance with the Governance Code on Public Appointments.

“I look forward to welcoming Jo Saxton to the role, whose wealth of experience makes her the ideal candidate to lead such an important organisation,” he said.

“With a deep understanding of the education system and Ofqual, she will play a vital part in upholding standards and confidence in our exams and qualifications.

“I am also grateful to Simon for his work as interim chief this year, helping the organisation to navigate the pandemic’s challenges.”

Saxton’s previous experience includes serving as CEO of Turner Schools Academy Trust and CEO of Future Academies Trust. Prior to working with academies and schools, she taught and examined at universities in England and the United States.

Saxton is also a former trustee of The Brilliant Club and New Schools Network, a charity set up to promote the creation of free schools.

After her pre-appointment hearing the Education Committee will publish its recommendations, which Williamson will consider before deciding on the final appointment.

DfE said Saxton was expected to start in post in September.

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