DfE seeks perm sec with 'political sensitivity and personal resilience' to succeed Slater

Up to £162,500 on offer for job vacated following a row over A-Level grades last month
Photo: PA

The Department for Education is offering up to £162,500 for a “resilient and focused” permanent secretary to replace Jonathan Slater, who left government last month after a row over A-Level results.

DfE is seeking a “passionate and dynamic leader who can lead the department through the challenges ahead”, including the recovery from the coronavirus crisis and the UK’s departure from the EU, according to a job advert.

The ideal candidate for the role will be able to engage and develop the department’s leadership team, and have the credibility to influence senior leaders in other departments and education and children’s services, and the “resilience and focus to deliver effective responses to these challenges”.

Among the “key strengths” applicants must demonstrate is an “extremely well developed political sensitivity to secure the confidence of ministers and key stakeholders, and the personal resilience to operate under high levels of scrutiny and sustained pressure”.

The job ad went live around a month after it was announced that Slater was to leave the role, following a backlash over the government’s handling of A-Level, GCSE and other exam results. Both Slater and Sally Collier, the head of exam regulator Ofqual, stood down following the row over the use of a controversial algorithm to calculate students’ grades after Covid-19 prevented exams going ahead.

The announcement of Slater’s departure said the prime minister had “concluded that there is a need for fresh official leadership at the Department for Education”.

Susan Acland-Hood, who was brought in as second perm sec to support the department’s response to the A-Level grades row, has been acting perm sec since 1 September.

Slater’s permanent successor must have experience “leading people through change” and must ensure DfE learns lessons from its response to Covid to shape the next phase of its transformation, the job ad said.

The perm sec will provide “support, counsel and challenge” to the education secretary as their principal adviser, to enable the department to provide “world-class education, care and training for everyone”.

They will provide strategic leadership for the department by “translating ministers’ ambitions into a clear vision to staff, setting a clear direction for that vision and ensuring it is organised, resourced and motivated to support ministers effectively and deliver their key priorities efficiently”.

They will engage staff in DfE’s strategy and collaborate with external stakeholders to improve outcomes in education and children’s services.

And they must act as a role model for staff, “reinforcing and supporting a culture of inclusion, diversity and continuous improvement, improved workforce capability and the drive for excellence driving a culture of high performance and excellent delivery”.

Applications for the role close on 16 October, with final interviews set to take place the following month.

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