Blair's top appointees to quit schools inspectorate

The two most senior executives at the education standards watchdog, Ofsted, are leaving their jobs as the school inspectorate faces a major review of its operations.

Christine Gilbert, the chief schools inspector who is also chief executive of Oftsed, has told the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, that she will not renew her contract when it expires next year. The coalition Government is expected to try to persuade her to stand down from her position earlier.

Zenna Atkins, a social entrepreneur who is the chairman of Ofsted, said yesterday that she was also quitting.

She will take up a new post as chief executive of GEMS Education, a private company founded by a Dubai-based tycoon, Sunny Varkey, which is seeking to run some of the new Swedish-style independent "free" schools being set up by Mr Gove.

Relations between Ms Gilbert and Mr Gove were always likely to be fraught because the Conservatives saw her as a New Labour appointment. She is married to Tony McNulty, the former Labour minister who resigned from the Cabinet over the MPs' expenses scandal and lost his Harrow East seat to a Tory in last month's election.

Ms Gilbert, a former headteacher who masterminded improvements in the London borough of Tower Hamlets as its director of education, strenuously denied any suggestion of "cronyism" and retorted that she hardly ever saw her husband.

However, Mr Gove made it clear during the election campaign that he wanted to see a review of Ofsted's role, accepting the arguments of heads and teachers that it had become too bureaucratic and relied on a mountain of paperwork to assess schools.

He said he wanted to see the organisation return to its core function of judging schools primarily on their teaching quality.

Ms Atkins said of her departure: "I am now ready for a challenge and the free schools agenda, in particular, is one that really excites me."

Both she and Ms Gilbert started at Ofsted at the same time in 2006, when Tony Blair was Prime Minister. During their reign, Oftsed has been involved in several controversies, most notably the aftermath of the Baby Peter scandal in Haringey, when an emergency inspection contradicted an earlier report that the borough's children's services were "good".

Ms Gilbert incurred the wrath of teaching unions by insisting that a "satisfactory" inspection rating on a school was "not good enough". They accused her of rewriting the English language. However, she was not afraid to criticise the Labour government's record. In her first annual report after taking office, she declared: "More needs to be done, and swiftly, to reduce the number of secondary schools found to be inadequate."

She added that the report card on Britain's education system over the previous decade should read "still not good enough". It was hardly the verdict that Mr Blair, then in his last year in power, would have wanted given his famous commitment to "education, education, education".

Her departure paves the way for Mr Gove to seek a champion of "traditional education" to take her place.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: Senior Textiles / Fashion Technician

£22000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To contribute to the day-to-da...

Recruitment Genius: Health and Social Care NVQ Assessor

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: It is also essential that you p...

Recruitment Genius: ICT Infrastructure Manager

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Edinburgh city centre scho...

Recruitment Genius: Plumber

£30000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An independent boys' school sit...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test