Toby Young quits Office for Students to 'get on' with free schools work

Toby Young, the journalist and free schools advocate, has resigned from his new role on the board of the new universities regulator, following a backlash over comments made in his past.

Young announced this morning that he has left the board of the Office for Students, claiming the reaction to his appointment had become a “distraction” to the regulator’s work.

He will now focus on his work as the director of the New Schools Network, the charity set up to help open free schools. Young, the founder of the West London Free School, was appointed to lead the NSN last January, having been a supporter of the free schools programme since its inception.

“Education is my passion and I want now to be able to get on with the work I have been doing to promote and support the free schools movement,” he wrote in the Spectator today.

“These schools have already done a huge amount to raise standards in some of England’s most deprived areas and the next challenge is to extend those benefits to every area of educational underperformance.”

Although some of the criticism centred on Young’s perceived lack of credentials for the OfS role, the government also came under pressure to fire him over numerous offensive comments he has made on social media, and for his views on some education issues.

These include multiple tweets about the size of women’s breasts, and one in which he refers to a gay celebrity as “queer as a coot”. It also emerged that Young had deleted tens of thousands of his tweets.

His commitment to inclusive education was also questioned, after comments he made in a 2012 article for The Spectator appeared to attack the use of wheelchair ramps in schools and mock the work of special educational needs departments. Young has also previously written in favour of using “progressive eugenics” to improve intelligence.

The National Education Union was among the organisations that called for Young to go, claiming his appointment undermined the government’s efforts to tackle sexism in schools.

Speaking on the Today Programme this morning, Robert Halfon, the chair of the parliamentary education committee, said Young had “done the honourable thing” in resigning.