Covid advisory group signed gagging orders, DfE reveals


Twelve members of a group advising the Department for Education on its Covid-19 response have signed gagging orders.

Schools Week revealed in May that the recovery advisory group, made up of academy leaders, charity bosses and others, had been formed to help the department.

It has now emerged that the group members signed personal confidentiality agreements.

The development came to light in a parliamentary written question from Lord Watson, Labour’s education spokesperson in the Lords, which was answered by Baroness Berridge, the academies minister.

“It beggars belief that the government is gagging experts who are providing advice to ministers,” Watson told Schools Week.

“We need an open and transparent process for our recovery from coronavirus. We should not allow government secrecy to potentially damage children’s futures.”

Academy leaders Sir Jon Coles, Martyn Oliver, Ian Bauckham, Richard Gill, Ed Vainker, Rowena Hackwood and Susan Douglas are members of the group.

Becky Francis, the chief executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, and Jonathan Simons from lobbyists Public First are also on the group, as are Martin Pratt from Camden Council, Angela Cox, the director of education for the Diocese of Leeds and Mrunal Sisodia from the National Network of Parent Carer Forums.

The group is separate from the DfE’s Covid-19 response school stakeholder advisory group, which includes education unions and other national bodies.

The TES reported earlier this year that the DfE had attempted to get the stakeholder group to sign confidentiality agreements, but Berridge has since confirmed that none did.

The DfE was approached for comment.

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