New Ofsted boss embarrassed by problems at his own academy chain
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Thursday 31 July 2014
The new chairman of Ofsted faces the embarrassing prospect of seeing the struggling chain of academies at which he currently plays a key role criticised by the school standards body.
Businessman David Hoare, who was appointed to the Ofsted post today, is a director at the AET Academy Trust, which the Government has banned from taking on new schools due to concerns about its performance.
Mr Hoare will leave AET to take up the Ofsted job in September. At around the same time, Ofsted will issue a report that is expected to criticise some of AET’s schools following inspections carried out just before their summer break.
Ministers wrote to five schools in the chain about “unacceptable standards” last November. Ofsted’s verdict was due to be published this week but was delayed. Whitehall sources insisted this was due to staff holidays at Ofsted and not to spare Mr Hoare’s embarrassment. They argued that it would have been less embarrassing to “get it out of the way” before his new job was announced. Oftsed’s report is now expected at the end of August or in early September.
The appointment surprised Labour and teaching unions due to the problems at AET, the country’s largest academy chain. The Department for Education said last year it was “concerned” about the group’s performance, and that some of its schools were “not making the necessary improvements”.
The DfE said Mr Hoare had been brought in to help AET with its difficulties because of his business experience. He will step down as a trustee of AET to take up the Ofsted post.
Mr Hoare, until recently chairman of mail company DX Group, was educated privately at Marlborough College. He said he was looking forward to working closely with Sir Michael Wilshaw, the Chief Inspector of Schools, to raise standards - particularly for disadvantaged pupils.
“Ofsted has a key role helping to improve the leadership of our schools and the performance of our pupils. I look forward to being part of the team," he said.
Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, said Mr Hoare “is a proven business leader who has the expertise in leadership and governance crucial to helping Ofsted through a significant period of change and reform. He is also passionate about education.”
Mr Hoare will succeed the Labour peer Sally Morgan. The Independent revealed in January that Michael Gove, the then-Education Secretary, had decided to deny her a second three-year term. This angered the Liberal Democrats, and he was accused of politicising Ofsted.
David Ross, co-founder of the Carphone Warehouse high street chain and founder of a chain of 25 academies, was on a shortlist of four names for the Ofsted job drawn up by an independent panel. But the multi-millionaire was dropped after Lib Dem objections because he has donated about £220,000 to the Conservative Party. This happened before Mr Gove was demoted to Government Chief Whip in last month’s reshuffle.
Mr Hoare, who is not a Tory donor, is seen as a less controversial choice. But some Conservative MPs are unhappy. One senior backbencher said: “David Ross was the best man for the job. His academy chain is brilliant. Nicky Morgan has bottled it to avoid headlines about a Tory donor. We should have taken a one-day row and done the right thing.”
Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said: “David Hoare has already shown a positive interest in the development of children through his recent work. He quickly needs to address the pressure placed on teachers from the current Ofsted regime, which is in disarray with questionable quality control processes. He also needs to remember that schools are not businesses, and shouldn’t become businesses.”
Tristram Hunt, the shadow Education Secretary, said: “The Tories have shown they cannot be trusted with Ofsted. They first undermined its independence by sacking Sally Morgan and trying to appoint cronies in her place. Playing politics with children's education by filling posts with the Tories' nearest and dearest is not acceptable.”
Profile: David Hoare
David Hoare’s experience of the state-education system appears relatively limited. Marlborough, where he was educated, is one of the UK’s most expensive public schools. From there, he studied engineering at Birmingham University, then business at Stanford.
In 1977, he started work at the European arm of the US consultancy Bain & Company. Ten years later, he co-founded Talisman Management, which advises firms in need of restructuring. He has led numerous underperforming firms, including Laura Ashley and Radio Rentals. This year, he became a trustee of the country’s largest chain of academies. He joined at a time when the trust had run into heavy criticism. He will now stand down as a trustee.
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