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Growing speculation academies minister Lord Nash is preparing to quit the DfE

Peer has been a key figure in driving through Michael Gove's programme for academies and free schools

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Peer has been a key figure in driving through Michael Gove's programme for academies and free schools

There is growing speculation that one of the architects of the current academies system is preparing to leave government.

Multiple sources have told Tes that schools minister Lord Nash is planning to retire from the Department for Education in the coming week.

The DfE did not deny this, and a spokesman said it did not comment on speculation.

Lord Nash has been a minister since January 2013. He had previously spent more than two years as a non-executive board member at the DfE, following Michael Gove’s appointment as education secretary in 2010.

Seen as a champion of Mr Gove’s vision for academisation, Lord Nash has been a key player in driving the programme forward in government.

He previously founded the Future Academies Trust in 2006, a charity set up to support young people, and which sponsors academies, including Pimlico Academy and Millbank Primary Academy.

His ministerial responsibilities include “a strong school system”, which includes academies and free schools.

One leading advocate of school autonomy said: "This is concerning news. John Nash is among the last of the old school of Gove-era ministerial education reformers. It is imperative that his replacement is someone equally determined and committed to the cause of academies and system autonomy."

Lord Nash has often been a lightning rod for critics of the academy system, because of his background working in venture capitalism, his donations to the Conservative party, his unelected position in the House of Lords, and his continued role at Future Academies while serving as an education minister.

After being challenged about potential conflicts of interest by former Labour cabinet minister Lord Foulkes last year, Lord Nash told peers: "We have a very clear protocol established with the civil service that I'm not allowed be involved in any decisions which may directly affect the Future Academies trust."

In May, he told Tes he initially resisted Mr Gove’s suggestion that he join the government, but finally decided “if at the age of 63, somebody asks you to be a government minister in an area you are passionate about you’ve just got to do it”.

However, he said he did not consider himself a politician, and the DfE was the only department where he was interested in being a minister.

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