Schools

DfE’s ITT reforms adviser joins Teach First board

Will Bickford Smith previously taught via the education charity, before leading the controversial reforms in government

Will Bickford Smith previously taught via the education charity, before leading the controversial reforms in government

6 Oct 2022, 15:52

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Teach First has appointed one of the key architects of the government’s controversial initial teacher training reforms to its board.

Will Bickford Smith, a former Teach First trainee and until last week senior schools policy adviser at the Department for Education, became a director at the education charity on October 1.

The education charity was itself recently re-accredited to keep delivering ITT, and won a government contract to become ITT market quality “associates”. Tender documents suggest this could include closing down providers, but the charity said this was not its role.

Bickford Smith will carry out the trustee role alongside his new full-time job advising the vice-chancellor of the University of Exeter, which was also recently re-accredited to deliver ITT. He said he would use his schools experience to “push for universities to be true civic institutions”.

Bickford Smith recently told Schools Week there was a “really good story to tell” about the government’s progress reforming teacher training, in which he played an important role.

But forcing all ITT providers to re-apply has sparked a backlash, with some top-rated providers snubbed and fears it will exacerbate recruitment woes.

Before that Bickford Smith led on overseeing the well-received teacher recruitment and retention strategy.

Bickford Smith was previously an ambassador for Teach First, after training as a politics and citizenship teacher via its graduate programme earlier in his career.

He also founded the Conservative Teachers group in 2015 and was vice-chair of the Conservative Education Society until 2017.

Schools Week understands his appointment went through the government’s business appointment process.

Business appointment rules exist to ensure ex-civil servants and ministers cannot “profit from their knowledge of and contacts within Whitehall, and to prevent any perception of wrongdoing”, according to House of Commons documents.

But rules state it is “in the public interest that people with experience of public administration should be able to move into other sectors”.

The rules apply for one or two years after departure for civil servants depending on seniority, and include abiding by civil service principles of honesty, objectivity and impartiality.

Teach First also appointed another former government education adviser to its board this month. Jonathan Simons is head of education at consultancy Public First, and previously a Downing Street education adviser between 2007 and 2011.

Djamila Boothman, assistant head at Woodside High School in north London, joined in June. Richard Taylor, chair of Greenhill International, an investment bank, joined in September, and Paul Geddes, CEO of tech and digital skills organisation QA, joined in October too.

A Teach First spokesperson said: “We look forward to working with them and are confident that the whole Teach First community, including the teachers and pupils we work with, will benefit from their skills and experience.”

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