New Schools Network director Nick Timothy is taking a break from his role to run Theresa May’s campaign for the Conservative leadership, Schools Week can reveal.
The organisation, one of the leading advocates of the free schools movement, has confirmed that Timothy, a former adviser and chief of staff to the home secretary, has been allowed an “unpaid sabbatical” to “work on a political campaign over the summer”.
Timothy, left the home office for the New Schools Network last year, and has been vocal in his defence and support of free schools in the face of significant controversy.
Like May, Timothy is also a long-time supporter of grammar schools, and his appointment, coupled with the fact her main opponent is likely to be former education secretary and grammar-school sceptic Michael Gove, education could play a key role in the campaign.
Jonathan Simons, head of education at the right-leaning think tank Policy Exchange, said: “Given all the candidates have mentioned the importance of social mobility and improving life outcomes, and given Gove’s previous role, it is likely to give education a welcome prominence in this campaign.”
Simons also said it was important that whoever becomes the next prime minister continues to “deliver on the manifesto promise to create 500 new free schools”, adding that the New Schools Network would “continue to play a role in that”.
Timothy started his career at the Conservative Party’s research department in 2001, before serving as a corporate affairs adviser at the Corporation of London and a policy adviser at the Association of British Insurers before becoming May’s chief of staff in 2006.
He served as deputy director of Conservative Research from 2007 to 2010, when he became a special adviser to May upon her appointment at the Home Office following the formation of the coalition government.
David Ross, chair of trustees at New Schools Network, said: “Since he joined us as Director, Nick has driven a powerful new strategy for the organisation that will continue unabated over the summer as we expand our office in Manchester; continue our campaigning work to identify new, innovative school providers; and work with over 100 groups across the country on new school applications for September and beyond.”
Sarah Pearson, the NSN’s director of campaigns and external relations will act as interim director in his absence.