John Tomsett, Dr Ian Stockford, Helena Mills, John Blaney, Nick Timothy and Rachel Wolf

John Tomsett, headteacher of Huntington School, York, is the first chair of the Headteachers’ Roundtable.

Mr Tomsett co-founded the education think-tank in 2012, prompted by “growing frustration” with the government’s education policy and opposition response to it. Membership has grown through Twitter.

Mr Tomsett says his goal is to “keep the think-tank working” and ensure its “presence” when policymakers “make policy”.

“It is really easy to criticise . . . what we need to do is come up with solutions focused on supporting the policymakers.

“We also want to ensure that they understand what it is like for someone on the ground; what it looks like from our point of view. We want to help them, rather than sit on the sidelines and whinge and criticise.”

Mr Tomsett has been teaching for 27 years. He has an English degree from the University of York, followed by a PGCE at the University of Sussex.

Dr Ian Stockford has been appointed the new executive director for general qualifications at Ofqual.

He joined the exams regulator in 2014 as deputy director of research and analysis but will now oversee its general qualifications directorate, which has responsibility for qualification design and standards.

“We are in the process of delivering a programme of reform where new A-levels and GCSEs are being developed.

“Part of my role will be to oversee development and application of regulations to ensure the quality of qualifications and assessments developed by the exam boards.”

Although Dr Stockford has no classroom experience, he tutored and supervised undergraduate, masters and PhD students when he was a senior research fellow at the University of Nottingham. He was also head of research at exam board AQA.

His first degree was a masters in electronic engineering at the University of Nottingham followed by a PhD, again at Nottingham, in optical engineering.

Helena Mills, the former headteacher of Burnt Mill Academy, Essex, has started in her new role as head of Burnt Mill Co-operative Academy Trust.

She has been replaced by John Blaney, the academy’s former associate headteacher.

Ms Mills will now spend half a day in each of the trusts’ six schools but she says her focus will stay the same.

“I know the name of every year 6 child in all of our primaries and what they are predicted to get in their SATs. That won’t change.”

She says she will still teach on the odd occasion because “a large part of my role is improving teaching and you need to stay an outstanding practitioner if you are to command the respect of teachers.

“There is nothing more irritating than an unqualified person judging teachers.”

Ms Mills and Mr Blaney have worked closely together for 17 years.

He says: “I have the very same high aspirations [as Ms Mills] for our students.

“I want them to develop as well-rounded individuals, and I want all of them to leave us fully prepared to take their place and be able to compete on the world stage.”

Central government shake-up


Nick Timothy, former special adviser to home secretary Theresa May, is the new director of the New Schools Network (NSN).

He takes over from interim director, Sarah Pearson, who took on the role following Natalie Evans’ appointment in May as government whip in the House of Lords.

Mr Timothy, who starts in his new job later this summer, says NSN has a “hugely important” role to play in the next five years campaigning and helping to set up another 500 free schools, a pledge made by David Cameron in the run up to the general election earlier this year.

“The opportunity to go to a good school changed my life, but not every child is so fortunate,” Mr Timothy says. “That’s why free schools are so important. They are driving up standards and bringing diversity, competition and innovation to the education system.

“I can’t wait to get to work with the passionate parents, teachers, charities and community activists whose efforts have already delivered hundreds of free schools.”

Mr Timothy hit the headlines last year when he was ditched from a list of Tory candidates for Aldridge-Brownhills in Walsall, West Midland, after refusing to canvass during the Rochester and Strood by-election.

Before his time as an adviser to Mrs May, he was deputy director of the Conservative research department and a policy adviser at the Association of British Insurers.

He is a trustee of Parents and Abducted Children Together and for the past few years has volunteered for the Social Mobility Foundation, mentoring sixth-form students from under-privileged families who hope to study at university.

He has a politics degree from the University of Sheffield.

Rachel Wolf, founder of NSN, is stepping down as the charity’s chair of trustees following her appointment as a special adviser at Number 10. She will cover tech, innovation and education.

Ms Wolf has been with NSN as its director and then chair since 2009 and says she is “proud it has grown from an idea to an organisation delivering change across the country”.

Ms Wolf studied natural sciences at the University of Cambridge before travelling in South America.

She then worked on Boris Johnson’s mayoral campaign before moving to help Michael Gove shape Conservative education policy.

She founded NSN when she was 24, helping to get the first wave of free schools up and running.

Ms Wolf has spent the past few years in the US working on education technology in her role as senior vice-president of content for Amplify Learning, run by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

Her father is Martin Wolf, chief economics commentator at the Financial Times, and her mother is Alison Wolf, professor of public-sector management at King’s College, London, and an expert on education and employment.


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