Sir Kevan Collins: Who is the new Covid catch-up tsar?

News that the PM had hired the former Labour government education adviser, teacher and EEF head to lead our national lost learning recovery effort has been broadly welcomed. So, who is Sir Kevan Collins?

Amy Gibbons

Sir Kevan Collins

Less than two years ago, he told Tes that England’s education system is “not yet good enough for everybody”.

Now Sir Kevan Collins, former head of the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), has been asked to step in and oversee the recovery from arguably the biggest crisis our schools have ever faced.

Yesterday, the government announced the appointment of Sir Kevan as its education recovery commissioner to lead a comprehensive programme of catch-up aimed at young people who have lost out on learning during the pandemic.


Related: PM appoints Sir Kevan Collins as Covid catch-up tsar

Profile: Meet Sir Kevan Collins – champion of education research

Previous role: Sir Kevan Collins to step down from EEF


But who is the man charged with remedying the enormous impact of prolonged school closures on our pupils’ education?

Sir Kevan was most recently chief executive of the EEF but has worked in the education sector for 30 years.

The fifth of six sons born into an army family, Sir Kevan went to primary schools in Germany, Cyprus and the UK before attending secondary school in Preston, Lancashire.

After a degree in economics and politics at Lancaster University and a PGCE at Bradford and Ilkley Community College, he started teaching in Tower Hamlets. He then moved to Bradford and taught on secondment in Mozambique before going into adviser roles.

Sir Kevan’s first national role was in 2003, when he headed up the Labour government’s Primary National Strategy. He left two years later to become Tower Hamlets’ first director of children’s services.

In 2009, he was made chief executive of the London borough, managing a £1 billion budget and around 8,000 staff – and had the job of finding £50 million worth of cuts at the council over three years.

His decision-making process was filmed for the Channel 4 documentary Undercover Boss, in which he served meals-on-wheels alongside his employees and told the cameras that his priority was to “minimise the impact of cuts on the frontline”.

Then in 2011, Sir Kevan became chief executive of the EEF. He was knighted for his services to education in 2015, and stepped down from his leadership role at the charity after eight years in 2019.

But when speaking to Tes that same year, Sir Kevan said there is one job title that means more to him than any other.

“In the end,” he said. “I am a teacher.”

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Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @tweetsbyames

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