Who is Theodore Agnew? 7 facts about the new academies minister

It has been confirmed that Sir Theodore Agnew, chair of the Inspiration Trust academy chain, will replace Lord Nash as academies minister at the Department for Education.

Here are some interesting things we know about him…


1. He failed the 11-plus and ‘doesn’t believe in’ grammar schools

Agnew attended the independent Beeston Hall school in Norfolk and took the 11-plus test in the hope of going to a local grammar school.

Despit a good primary education, he failed, and attended Rugby School, a private school, instead.

Like his predecessor Lord Nash, Agnew is no fan of selection. He says he “doesn’t believe in” grammar schools, and says failing the 11-plus made him feel like a second-class citizen.


2. He made his money through insurance

Agnew initially worked in farming and cleaned brothels in Australia and Canada, but specialised in insurance when he returned to the UK in the late 1980s.

Agnew founded Town & Country Assistance, an insurance claims management firm, in 1989.

Selling his company in 2002, Agnew went on to co-found WNS Global Services, an outsourcing company.


3. Skills shortages inspired his interest in education

During his time running Town & Country Assistance he pioneered the outsourcing of jobs to India.

He told the Eastern Daily Press in 2013 that he had been frustrated with the level of numeracy and literacy skills among his employees in England. This inspired an interest in education reform.


4. He founded the Inspiration Trust

Agnew founded the East Norfolk Academy Trust in August 2012. It became the Inspiration Trust the following year, and he has chaired it ever since.

It has grown substantially and now runs 14 schools in Norfolk and Suffolk.

Agnew is known for having given large amounts of money to the trust and its schools.

A Schools Week investigation in March found the Inspiration Trust received £137,500 from Publish Interest Foundation, a grant-making charity connected to Agnew.

Agnew also donated £40,000 from personal funds in 2015, but no such transactions took place last year.

The trust says Agnew will relinquish his role as its chair following his ministerial appointment.



5. His links to the DfE go back to 2010

Agnew was appointed as a non-executive director at the Department for Education in 2010.

In 2013, he became chair of the DfE’s academies board.

In this role, he oversaw the work of the regional schools commissioners – including Tim Coulston, who at the same time had oversight of Agnew’s own academy chain, the Inspiration Trust.


6. Agnew was a trustee of the influential Policy Exchange

Agnew is well-connected in Westminster, having served on the boards of several key think tanks.

He was a trustee at Policy Exchange, a right-leaning think tank, founded by former education secretary Michael Gove.

He also served on the board of the Centre Forum think tank, and remains a trustee of its successor, the Education Policy Institute, which is chaired by the Liberal Democrat donor Paul Marshall.

Agnew and Marshall are also supporters of media company UnHerd, set up by the Conservative Home founder Tim Montgomerie.


7. He once worked for John Nash, the former academies minister, until we got involved…

In 2014, Schools Week revealed that Agnew had joined the Future Academies trust, which was founded by Lord Nash, as a non-executive director.

But the appointment was short-lived, and Schools Week revealed just one week later that Agnew had resigned from the post after just two months.

A spokesperson for the Inspiration Trust said at the time that he resigned because of “excessive work commitments”.

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  1. Good luck to Sir/Lord Agnew. But …. wouldn’t it be nice to have people running the DfE who did not attend public school, were not ex-insurance salesmen, and were not members of the “Think Tank” (right wing propaganda unit) Policy Exchange. I appreciate that some people in government only know people who fit these criteria but most of the population using the service, don’t inhabit that world.

    • J G Smith

      Why on earth should that matter if he has worked hard and wants to put something back? You need to get a life. You’d be critical of him or anyone whatever their background

  2. Glynne Williams

    Watch Panorama tonight, listen to his weasel words and you’ll understand why he should not be allowed anywhere near schools or the ideology-driven academy schools programme.