Ofsted curriculum lead to take up director post at Ark

Heather Fearn will move to Ark Schools as its director of curriculum and assessment in September after six years with Ofsted

Heather Fearn will move to Ark Schools as its director of curriculum and assessment in September after six years with Ofsted

27 Jun 2023, 13:25

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Heather Fearn will leave Ofsted and join Ark in September

The head of Ofsted’s curriculum unit, Heather Fearn, is leaving the watchdog to take up a directorial post at Ark Schools.

The senior HMI will become director of curriculum and assessment at the academy trust in September.

The shake-up comes as Ofsted’s strategy director also announced his departure from the inspectorate this week. Chief inspector Amanda Spielman’s tenure ends this year.

Fearn has worked for Ofsted for the past six years, during which she set up Ofsted’s curriculum unit, including overseeing its subject review inspection process.

Her tenure coincided with the introduction of the current school inspection framework in 2019, which saw the focus of inspectors shift from performance outcomes to curriculum when judging quality of education.

Prior to joining Ofsted, Fearn taught in both private and state schools for more than two decades, and previously described herself as a “conservative teacher”.

She went on to become executive vice-principal and curriculum director at Thetford Academy, which is part of the Inspiration Trust.

‘Wealth of curriculum development experience’

The Cambridge graduate is yet to comment publicly on the move, but Ark’s director of education Venessa Willms, said it was “very excited” about the appointment.

“Heather comes to us with a wealth of both teaching and curriculum development experience, and we look forward to welcoming her at the start of the new academic year,” Willms added.

“She will continue to build on the existing strengths of our curriculum team which is a key priority for Ark.”

Education Uncovered, which first revealed the move, reported that Fearn’s job as Senior HMI, Curriculum had been advertised last week with a salary of up to £87,567.

The post, which appears to have since been removed, stated candidates would be invited to interview at the end of this month.

A job advert for the Ark role states that the successful candidate would receive a “highly competitive” salary and have “responsibility” for curriculum and assessment across its 39 schools.

It adds that the post-holder will “ensure that curriculum intent and implementation…is delivering highest impact”.

They would be able to “research, seek and bring evidence-based best practice” to schools as well as “maintaining a strong personal knowledge” of the demands of external assessment and accountability frameworks.

Move comes amid time of change for Ofsted

Fearn’s move is not the first time a senior Ofsted figure has left to take on a leadership role within a large academy trust.

Ofsted’s former deputy director Matthew Purves moved to Academies Enterprise Trust in 2020 to oversee its group strategy for people and the leadership of the curriculum.

He returned to the inspectorate in February last year at its regional director for the south east.

But the latest change comes at a time of upheaval for Ofsted. Its director for strategy and engagement, Chris Jones, is leaving his role this week.

He will move to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities as its director for communities and integration.

Schools Week understands interviews for the top job ahead of Spielman’s departure as chief inspector at the end of the year have already taken place.

It is hoped a successor will be named before the end of July.

Ofsted announced a raft of measures aimed at reducing the toll of inspection on the wellbeing of heads and school staff earlier this month, but school leaders warned the changes did not go far enough.

The watchdog has been heavily criticised following the death of headteacher Ruth Perry.

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