Luke Tryl, the director of the New Schools Network, is leaving the charity to return to government.
Schools Week understands Tryl will return to his old role as special adviser to Nicky Morgan, who recently re-entered the cabinet as culture secretary.
The Conservative campaigner has only been in his current role since March. He was previously Ofsted’s director of corporate strategy, and an adviser to Morgan when she was education secretary between 2014 and 2016.
He will leave on August 7, and will be replaced by Unity Howard, the NSN’s deputy director.
“It has been a real privilege to work at NSN,” said Tryl. “Free schools have the power to be a truly transformative force in the education landscape and I am looking forward to seeing the work of NSN under Unity’s leadership.
“I am delighted to be passing on the mantle as free schools look set once again to play an important part of the domestic agenda – and with their proven track record I know that NSN will be integral to making sure this outstanding programme continues to go from strength to strength over the coming months and years.”
Howard said she was “delighted” to take Tryl’s place.
“Having been at NSN for several years I’m honoured to have the opportunity to step into the driving seat and lead NSN’s fantastic team. I have seen the impact that free schools have made over the past decade and I am looking forward to building on that success.”
However, Tryl’s move is likely to exacerbate concerns among critics of the free schools programme that the charity is too cosy with government.
The movement of Conservative activists between the NSN and Westminster has prompted fears about a “revolving door” and questions about the organisation’s charitable status.
Previous directors of the NSN include Nick Timothy, who went on to be Theresa May’s chief of staff, Natalie Evans, now the Conservative leader of the House of Lords, and Rachel Wolf, the NSN’s founder, who moved to Downing Street as a policy adviser in 2015.