Ofqual might not get permanent chief until 2025, education secretary warns

Gillian Keegan tells MPs she plans to appoint an interim replacement for Jo Saxton for up to a year
Education secretary Gillian Keegan. Photo: Amanda Rose/Alamy Live News

By Jim Dunton

20 Oct 2023

A permanent replacement for outgoing Ofqual chief inspector Jo Saxton might not be in place until 2025, education secretary Gillian Keegan has said.

Saxton has served as chief regulator at the exams watchdog since September 2021. But last month she announced plans to leave at the end of this year to become chief executive at admissions service UCAS.

At the time, Ofqual said it expected to launch a recruitment process for Saxton’s successor shortly, although it noted that an interim chief regulator would be appointed to “provide continuity” after the she departs.

In a letter to members of parliament’s Education Select Committee, published this week, Keegan says she is making preparations for the interim chief regulator to be in place for a full year.

She said that while she hoped to recruit a permanent successor for Saxton “as soon as possible”, there was not enough time to complete a full and open public appointments process before December, particularly as potential candidates would have notice periods to serve.

“Given this, I intend to appoint an interim chief regulator on an exceptional basis for a period of 12 months from 1 January 2024, pending appointment to the substantive post through an open competition,” she said.

“As well as providing continuity and stability over the coming year, a 12-month interim appointment term takes account of the challenge of recruiting an experienced suitable candidate to such a high profile and challenging role on a short-term basis.”

Keegan said the coming year would be a “challenging period” for Ofqual that would “require continuity and stability of leadership”.

She added: “I know you will share my desire to minimise the period of uncertainty for the organisation as it comes out of this year’s results season and looks to set future direction, including responding to the prime minister’s recent announcement of the government’s intention to introduce a new Advanced British Standard.”

The Advanced British Standard is the new qualification for 16 to 18-year-olds that will replace A-levels and T-levels. Prime minister Rishi Sunak set out the plan in his speech to this year’s Conservative Party conference earlier this month.

Keegan also used her letter to MPs to praise Saxton for her commitment to Ofqual over the past two years and for overseeing the return of exams and normal grading after the pandemic at the same time as continuing to deliver on a major reforms to vocational and technical qualifications.

“Her leadership has been invaluable in stabilising Ofqual following a challenging few years,” Keegan said.


Education HR Leadership
Share this page