Government adviser poised to be new exams regulator

Dr Saxton will attend a pre-appointment hearing in the Commons next month

Matt Mathers@MattEm90
Sunday 20 June 2021 00:51
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Gavin Williamson has named one of his policy advisers as his pick to lead England's independent exams regulator.

The education secretary has chosen Dr Jo Saxton, a former academy trust boss, as Ofqual's new chief regulator.

His recommendation still needs to be approved by prime minister Boris Johnson.

Dr Saxton has worked as a policy adviser to ministers in the Department for Education - including Mr Williamson - since leaving her post as chief executive of Turner Schools Academy Trust in Kent.

If appointed, she would take over from the interim chief regulator Simon Lebus - who took on the role in January - from September.

It comes after the fiasco around grading of GCSE and A-level students in England last summer, when end-of-year exams were cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic and school closures.

Thousands of A-level students had their results downgraded from school estimates by a controversial algorithm, before Ofqual announced a U-turn, allowing them to use teachers' predictions.

In August, Ofqual's chief regulator Sally Collier quit in the wake of the U-turn and she was replaced by her predecessor Dame Glenys Stacey.

Mr Williamson faced calls to resign over the grading chaos.

On the selection of Dr Saxton, Mr Williamson said: "I look forward to welcoming Jo Saxton to the role, whose wealth of experience makes her the ideal candidate to lead such an important organisation.

"With a deep understanding of the education system and Ofqual, she will play a vital part in upholding standards and confidence in our exams and qualifications.

"I am also grateful to Simon for his work as interim chief this year, helping the organisation to navigate the pandemic's challenges."

Dr Saxton will attend a pre-appointment hearing before the Education Select Committee on 6 July. The MPs will then publish their recommendations.

Simon Lebus, the former chief executive of Cambridge Assessment, has been in post in the top job on an interim basis since January and will leave in September.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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