Education secretary announces pick for next Ofsted chief

Sir Martyn Oliver has “demonstrated exemplary leadership and an unwavering commitment to driving up standards in areas of disadvantage”, Gillian Keegan says
Photo: Colin Underhill/Alamy

By Tevye Markson

24 Jul 2023

Education secretary Gillian Keegan has named her choice for the new chief inspector at Ofsted.

Sir Martyn Oliver is currently chief executive of Outwood Grange Academies Trust, a large multi-academy trust which has grown under his leadership from 17 academies to 41 primary, junior, secondary and alternative provision academies in north England.

Keegan said Oliver has “demonstrated exemplary leadership and an unwavering commitment to driving up standards in areas of disadvantage in his time as a school and trust leader”.

Oliver was knighted in 2022 in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for improving the education of thousands of children. Some 28 schools under the trust’s watch have improved their Ofsted rating out of 35 inspected.

He said he is “deeply honoured and hugely privileged” to have been chosen for the role, which he is set take over from current chief Amanda Spielman at the end of the year.

Before he can be appointed, Oliver will be grilled by the House of Commons Education Committee, which will make a recommendation to the education secretary on whether they think he is suitable for the role.

“Subject to the pre-appointment hearing, I can promise that I will work extremely hard and very closely with the whole sector so that we can together build on what has been done to date to create the best system in all areas of education, children’s services and skills for the benefit of children and young people,” Oliver said.

When Spielman was appointed, in 2016, then-education secretary Nicky Morgan overruled the committee, which had said it was unconvinced that Spielman was “prepared for the vast scope and complexity of this important role”.

Oliver is set to join Ofsted at a time of turbulence. After headteacher Ruth Perry took her own life in January following an Ofsted inspection – with her sister saying she had described it as “the worst day” of her life – there were calls for inspections to be halted.  

In June, Ofsted announced changes to improve inspection arrangements and reduce pressures on teachers and school leaders following Perry’s death.

Keegan said Spielman has “successfully steered” Ofsted and introduced key reforms including “hugely important” new education and social care inspection frameworks.

She said she is confident “the breadth of [Oliver’s] experience will enable him to build on” Spielman’s work over the last seven years.

Oliver was a critic of one of Spielman's flagship reforms, however, the curriculum-focused Education Inspection Framework, introduced in 2019. He told The Times in 2020: “Ofsted was trying to solve the problem of exam factories and schools teaching to the test.

"However, inspectors on the ground are taking a far too simplistic view on when GCSE teaching should begin. Many of the children in our schools need a three-year run-up. They don’t have books at home and space for homework. All that has to happen in school time and disproportionately their life chances come from qualifications.”

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