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Ofsted director seconded to help government plan for reopening of schools

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A senior Ofsted director has been seconded to a government team planning for the return of pupils to schools.

Sean Harford, the watchdog’s national director of education, moved temporarily to the Cabinet Office this week to work on the government’s response to the pandemic. He will be there until the end of the year.

Schools Week understands the Cabinet Office specifically requested an Ofsted official to help implement ministers’ plans to fully reopen schools from September.

A former assistant head and head of science at Linton Village College, Cambridgeshire, Harford was appointed as an Ofsted inspector in 2003, later becoming the watchdog’s regional director for the south of England and national director for schools.

He has been national director of education since September 2015.

During his secondment, Harford’s role at Ofsted will be taken on by Chris Russell, the watchdog’s regional director for the south east.

Harford isn’t the first Ofsted staffer to be redeployed during the pandemic.

The watchdog’s annual report and accounts, published last month, revealed that over 600 Ofsted staff were deployed to support “local authorities, other government departments and the frontline”.

Roles include some with the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Health and Social Care, local authorities, schools and multi-academy trusts, and children’s social care providers.

Among the other recent secondees is Mike Sheridan, Ofsted’s regional director for London, who is due to return to the watchdog soon following several months at the DHSC working on the government’s track and trace system.

Routine inspections of schools were paused in March, and are not due to resume again until January.



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4 Comments

  1. Janet Downs

    A little late, surely? Time to start planning for opening in two/three weeks should have started months ago – say, at least the beginning of June when the DfE was fixated on a piece-meal, partial opening.

  2. Gary Watson

    On recent evidence we should possibly be grateful of him being afforded two weeks! I have become accustomed to 24 hr notice for exam cancellations and appeals based on mocks. Maybe when all schools have returned we will hear the return to school plan.

    • Janet Downs

      Gary – I’m appalled to learn this morning that Ofqual has withdrawn the guidance about A level appeals. Further guidance will be issued, they say. Schools must feel impotent when faced with such incompetence.

  3. Andrew Knight

    Our head, like so many, worked non-stop for the last months coping with the crisis and the uncertainty. Result: she is on a very much needed holiday. So, I don’t see what planning HM Government can do with heads not available. What else have they got up their sleeve? Sounds a bit scary!