New chief hails from England
Professor David Hawker, currently deputy chief executive and director of children's services with Westminster council in London, said the chance to work in Welsh education was "a dream come true".
He will take up the role in August, almost eight months after his predecessor, Australian Steve Marshall, announced he was quitting for a "once in a lifetime" post in Ontario, Canada.
Professor Hawker said: "Wales has a single, united education and skills service, unlike England. This is a fantastic opportunity to bring together my experience in a Welsh context, and I will give my all to make a long-lasting contribution."
Sources said this week that Professor Hawker is not a fan of the testing regime, which he was instrumental in shaping over the border while working at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA).
But he joins DCELLS at an uncertain time. Insiders say it is understaffed, in disarray, and with no direction since Mr Marshall left.
First Minister Rhodri Morgan said: "David Hawker is an excellent acquisition. He will play a leading role in helping the Assembly government to develop an education system fit for the 21st century.
"He has already proved his capacity for leadership in teaching and in other children's services. Our ability to put services together in new ways will help us to attract the best people to Wales."
Professor Hawker began his career as a modern languages teacher before moving to the Schools Examination and Assessment Council. He was later the QCA's head of curriculum and assessment.
Last year he was elected as a Professor of the College of Teachers, primarily for his work in educational quality development and evaluation.
Professor Hawker was educated at Wadham College, Oxford, where he studied French and German before taking a postgraduate certificate in education at the University of Oxford's department of educational studies.
Married to Judy, 54-year-old Mr Hawker has a daughter, Lucy, 19, and a son Warren, 17.
The appointment is the second high-powered post to be made out of Wales this year - the first being that of the Scottish head of Estyn, Dr Bill Maxwell.
Time Out, page 35.