Free-school pioneer appointed health minister

21st December 2016 at 14:50
Conservative peer recently told TES that the government should not allow all schools to apply to become grammars

Lord James O’Shaughnessy, founder of Floreat Education Academies Trust, has been appointed as a minister in the Department of Health.

The Conservative peer, who was formerly David Cameron’s director of policy, recently used a TES interview to warn the government against allowing all schools to apply to become grammar schools. 

Lord O’Shaughnessy will join the Department of Health as parliamentary undersecretary of state, taking over from Lord Prior of Brampton, who has been moved to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. He will also act as a government whip in the Lords.

He wrote the Conservative's 2010 general election manifesto and was a Downing Street policy adviser between 2010 and 2011, before setting up Floreat Education in 2014. The multi-academy trust currently runs three primary schools in Wandsworth, south-west London; Wokingham; and Brentford, with two further primaries due to open in September 2017 in Southall, west London, and Colindale, north London. 

Lord O'Shaughnessy stepped down as Floreat Education’s managing director in February this year, but, according to his register of interests, he continues to act as an unpaid senior adviser to the MAT.

'The idea that all schools should select is wrong'

He is also part-owner of an education consultancy, Mayforth Consulting Limited, and is a senior fellow at the University of Birmingham’s Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues and the Legatum Institute thinktank. 

Earlier this month he told TES that the proposal to give all schools the chance to become selective should not go ahead.

“The idea that all schools should select is the wrong way to go, because the dynamic of how it would work in practice is such that it would create a rush for full-blown selection,” he said. 

“The evidence of fully selective systems is that they tend to be polarised by wealth.”

Instead, he called for a pilot scheme whereby grammars are introduced in under-performing areas where other initiatives had not had an effect, to act as a catalyst by bringing together high-quality teachers and aspirational parents.

Lord O’Shaughnessy said the “critical test” for new grammar schools would be that everyone benefitted from the arrival of a new selective school.

He suggested that they be held accountable for the performance across the local network of schools – and their funding agreements would allow the government to revoke their powers to select if this did not improve.

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