Rachel de Souza joins big trusts’ National Institute of Teaching

The children's commissioner joins the CEOs of Harris, Star, Oasis and OGAT on the board behind the DfE's new flagship teacher training provider

The children's commissioner joins the CEOs of Harris, Star, Oasis and OGAT on the board behind the DfE's new flagship teacher training provider

4 Jul 2022, 14:06

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Dame Rachel de Souza

The children’s commisioner Dame Rachel de Souza has joined the board running the new National Institute of Teaching.

de Souza has been appointed as a director of the School-Led Development Trust, set up by four large academy trusts last year to bid for and run the government’s flagship teacher training institute.

Documents published on Companies House’s website show she is now a director of the body, alongside the chief executives of its four founding trusts – Oasis Community Learning, the Harris Federation, Outwood Grange Academies Trust, and Star Academies.

de Souza, former CEO of the Inspiration Trust, is the only other listed director, other than former University of Birmingham vice-chancellor Sir David Eastwood – who also joined last month. No further details are provided on their roles.

The appointment was brought up at an education select committee on Tuesday.

Ian Mearns MP asked de Souza whether there are “potential conflicts of interests. Are you at all concerned in accepting that role it will distract in your important work on behalf of the nation’s children?”

The children’s commissioner said she accepted the position – offered to her by NIoT chair and Harris trust boss Sir Dan Moynihan – after “carefully examining” and talking to the Department for Education about potential conflicts.

“If there was a conflict I would get myself out of their no question,” she said.

But she added: “One of the key things children talked to us about was school, life at school and teaching. Some of the things you’re [the committee is] raising about a certain kind of rigid curriculum isn’t suiting them.”

She said she could provide the voice of “inclusion, children’s voice, SEND and the quality of teaching” to the organisation, adding: “If it doesn’t work I’d step away.”

Ministers confirmed earlier this year the SLDT had been handed a £121 milion deal to run the institute, with the winners emphasising their “by schools, for schools” approach.

In a recent interview with Schools Week, its chief executive Melanie Renowden said the first cohort of around 1,000 staff would take National Professional Qualifications in the next academic year.

NLE training will also start this year, but early career framework provision will start a year later than planned in September 2023 following the government’s legal dispute with the Ambition Institute, a rival bidder.

The government’s aim is for the institute to train 1,000 trainees a year at full capacity, but it will start with 500 in the 2023-24 academic year.

The Children’s Commissioner’s office and NIoT have been approached for comment.

Update: This piece was updated on Tuesday July 5 to include comments made at the education select committee where our story was raised.

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