Michael Gove has appointed a 28-year-old free school founder to one of the Department for Education’s top civil service roles on a salary advertised at around £105,000.
Tom Shinner (pictured), co-founder and vice chair of governors at the Greenwich Free School, has been made director of strategy and performance, as well as continuing as the education secretary’s senior policy adviser.
The promotion of Mr Shinner comes as Mr Gove has been accused by his Liberal Democrat colleagues of placing “party political” appointments to public roles.
Mr Shinner previously worked as a business analyst for management consultants McKinsey, before becoming a teacher at his alma mater Dr Challoner’s Grammar School, a highly-selective secondary in Buckinghamshire.
He then returned to McKinsey before setting up the Greenwich Free School in south London, alongside Jonathan Simons, head of education at Policy Exchange, a right-leaning think tank originally established by Mr Gove.
Mr Shinner’s predecessor as the DfE’s director of strategy was Helen Spencer, who had worked at the Whitehall department since 2001.
Before securing the role, Ms Spencer had gained experience as a principal private secretary and as a deputy director at the DfE after spending a sabbatical at the World Bank in Washington DC acting as an education specialist.
Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg claimed that appointments to senior public service roles were being along party political lines following the education secretary’s decision not to renew Baroness Sally Morgan’s contract as chair of Ofsted.
On Mr Shinner’s appointment, the DfE said that it had been approved by the Civil Service Commissioner.
“Following an openly-advertised external competition, Tom Shinner has been appointed to the role of director of strategy and performance,” a spokesperson said.
“As with all such competitions at this level, the process was overseen, and recruitment panel chaired by, an independent Civil Service Commissioner.”