DfE lets us look at register of board members’ interest

DfE lets us look at register of board members’ interest

The Department for Education’s register of board members’ interests is not available on its website and is more than a year out of date.

During an investigation regarding donations to the election campaigns of education ministers, Schools Week asked to see the register of interests the DfE is legally required to hold that describe any paid-for employment or unremunerated interests of DfE board members.

Schools Week was told that the register was only available for viewing by appointment at the Department for Education offices in Westminster – and a reporter had to copy its contents by hand.

The initial investigation into campaign funds revealed that more than £15,000 of donations were made by lead non-executive director of the DfE Paul Marshall to Yeovil Liberal Democrat’s 2015 election campaigns. Yoevil has been the Liberal Democrat seat of schools minister David Law. Mr Marshall is also chair of trustees for academy sponsor Ark.

Appointment complete, our viewing of the register last week revealed that it had not been updated since April 2014. It therefore did not include four board members who had joined since that date.

These members are: director general of children’s services and departmental strategy Paul Kissack, director human resources Simon Fryer, non-executive Marion Plant and chief scientific adviser Tim Leunig.

While the £15,000 donations from Mr Marshall were declared by Mr Laws in the 2014/15 register of MPs’ financial interests in August last year and February this year, they were not entered in the DfE register of interests as the donation was made after the register’s creation.

Other notable interests include director of strategy Tom Shinner’s post as a Royal Navy Reserve Lieutenant, and Theodore Agnew and David Meller’s connections to Policy Exchange – the think tank founded by Michael Gove.

Schools Week was originally told by the holder of official access to the document that the information could be sent as a pdf but this option was later withdrawn.

The document – written on three sheets of A4 paper – was eventually viewed in the DfE’s head office, Sanctuary Buildings, in Westminster.

It is unclear why the information could not be sent electronically.

A version of the document can be found here.