The 51-year-old began his career as a humanities teacher in Hillingdon, London, and has been chief executive of the Teacher Training Agency and its successor the Training Development Agency for schools since 2000.
The Government announced this week that he had been appointed to the number two job at the DfES, a post previously held by Peter Housden. He will earn around pound;155,000 a year.
Mr Tabberer will effectively be second-in-command to David Bell, the former chief inspector who was appointed as the department's permanent secretary in December.
During his time in charge of teacher training, Mr Tabberer presided over the first increases in numbers entering the profession since 1993.
A fan of "big, hairy, audacious ideas", he also oversaw the agency's "Those who can, teach" and "Use your head, teach" campaigns. His previous posts included senior research fellow and, later, assistant director at the National Foundation for Educational Research, an adviser to West Sussex council and member of the DfES standards and effectiveness unit.
Graham Holley, one of the TDA's executive directors, will be its interim chief executive.