Zahawi appoints former head Mark Lehain as policy adviser

Former director of the New Schools Network and Parents and Teachers for Excellence joins DfE team

Former director of the New Schools Network and Parents and Teachers for Excellence joins DfE team


New education secretary Nadhim Zahawi has appointed former headteacher Mark Lehain as a policy adviser.

Lehain, a former Conservative general election candidate, was founding principal of Bedford Free School – one of the country’s first – in 2011.

It had been reported Lehain was in the running for a special adviser role, but Schools Week understands his appointment at the Department for Education has now been confirmed.

Well-known in the education sector and a regular media commentator on schools issues, Lehain is a vocal proponent of traditionalist education ideologies including a knowledge-rich curriculum and strict behaviour policies.

After six years at Bedford, Lehain went on to lead Parents and Teachers for Excellence, a campaign group for education reform founded by Dame Rachel de Souza, the now children’s commissioner.

Lehain also served as interim director of the New Schools Network, a government-funded charity, for a brief period in 2018.

He is currently director of the Campaign for Common Sense, which has published research on culture war issues including gender identity and “wokeness”. He has also been a senior adviser at communications agency PLMR since February.

Lehain contested Newcastle North for the Conservatives at the 2019 election, but lost to Labour MP Catherine McKinnell, who has held it since 2010.

He was educated at the University of Cambridge, and was a maths teacher before moving into school leadership.

His appointment comes after Iain Mansfield confirmed he was remaining at the DfE following the reshuffle, as an adviser to further and higher education minister Michelle Donelan.

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