Gillian Keegan’s special adviser will return to a non-political civil service role as senior schools policy adviser at the Department for Education.
Rory Gribbell will be filling the role left vacant by David Thomas, who is now running a fledging maths charity.
Gribbell has held his current role since September. He was recruited to advise then secretary of state Kit Malthouse, who lasted just over a month before being replaced by Keegan.
A Teach First alumnus, Gribbell previously led on education policy in Dominic Cumming’s Number 10 policy unit.
Gribbell, who will take up the role of senior policy adviser on schools and cross cutting policy, said he was “delighted” to be returning to the civil service.
He was previously a DfE “teacher in residence” and adviser to schools minister Nick Gibb.
“It has been a huge privilege to spend the past 7 years working with the brilliant team at DfE.
“I am hugely proud of the work we have done together, including the reforms to teacher training and development, navigating a return to exams following the pandemic, and resolving industrial action whilst securing record investment in schools.
“Every day at the DfE, we work to improve the lives of children. I am grateful for the opportunity to continue as part of the team and cannot wait to start the new role after enjoying paternity leave.”
Tensions over political links
Given the likelihood of a potential upcoming change of government, Gribbell’s links with the Conservative party might cause some tensions.
Civil service rules state employees must “serve the government … to the best of your ability in a way which maintains political impartiality” and not “allow your personal political views to determine any advice you give or your actions”.
However while Gribbell was also active in the Conservative Education Society while teaching, he is also a former Labour party member.
He said teaching had driven him to the right of politics due to the left’s “irrational opposition” to academies and free schools.
Former government adviser Sam Freedman tweeted any incoming Labour government “would be wise to keep him given he’s one of handful of people with any institutional knowledge”.
The department has recently been hit by several senior staff leaving.
Gribbell has been a key liaison recently between the union general secretaries and Keegan in their negotiation over pay – resulting in the strikes being called off with the government’s 6.5 per cent pay offer accepted.
He’s also been instrumental in the controversial ITT review and the early career framework reforms.