Chris Russell to retire as Ofsted’s national director for education

Senior official will leave at the same time as chief inspector Amanda Spielman in December

Senior official will leave at the same time as chief inspector Amanda Spielman in December

Chris Russell

Ofsted’s national director of education Chris Russell will retire at the end of this year after just over two years in the role, Schools Week has learned.

It means that both Amanda Spielman, the current chief inspector, and one of her most senior officials will depart the inspectorate in December.

Russell has worked at Ofsted since 2006, initially as an inspector and then in various regional director posts before being promoted to national director in September 2021, replacing Sean Harford.

Schools Week understands he had passed retirement age and saw the upcoming change in leadership as a good opportunity to stand down.

Sir Martyn Oliver, currently chief executive of the Outwood Grange Academies Trust, is due to take over as chief inspector in January.

Russell’s departure follows that of strategy director Chris Jones, another one of the five officials that sit below the chief inspector in Ofsted’s management structure. He joined the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities in June.

Ofsted is now advertising for a new national director of education, with a starting salary of £123,500.

The advert states the postholder will be “responsible for the improvement and development of Ofsted’s inspection methodology for all stages of education”.

‘A clear focus on children and students’

They will ensure that Ofsted “maintains a clear focus on children and students and acts as a force for improvement”. They are also responsible for “inspector training and quality assurance of their work”.

Ofsted's chief inspector Amanda Spielman
Amanda Spielman

The job description added that the postholder will “ensure Ofsted maintains a clear focus on children and students and acts as a force for improvement, whilst ensuring the development of high-quality policy, guidance and frameworks across education”.

“As a member of Ofsted’s executive board, you will also be taking a full corporate leadership role influencing our strategic direction, policy and practice and through this, impacting the lives of millions of children and learners.”

Applications close on October 9.

It comes at a time of crisis for the watchdog, which has come under sustained criticism for its handling of the death of headteacher Ruth Perry.

Perry, the headteacher of Caversham Primary School in Berkshire, died in January. Her family said she took her own life before the publication of an inspection report rating the school ‘inadequate’.

Earlier this month, Spielman apologised after Schools Week revealed she told inspectors during a meeting that the inspection of a primary school where the head took her own life had been “reviewed to death”.

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