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Sacking of Ofsted chief part of Tory plan to oust women and non-Tories

Article By: Sue Learner, News Editor

The decision by the Education Secretary not to re-appoint Baroness Sally Morgan as chair of Ofsted has caused a political row.

Michael Gove, Education Secretary - credit: Paul Clarke

Michael Gove claimed the reason for the dismissal of Baroness Morgan was because he wanted a “fresh face” but Labour and Lib Dem MPs claim it is part of a Tory plan to oust women and non-Tories from public bodies.

The chair of the early years and schools regulator told the Today programme, she was the victim of a “determined effort from Number 10” to appoint more Conservatives to key posts in public bodies.

The Labour peer, who is a former political secretary to Tony Blair, will step down from her post in the autumn.

Mr Gove told the BBC, the Government believes "from time to time you need to refresh the person in charge... to bring fresh perspective". He added that he had appointed her in the first place, knowing full well she was Labour and said the appointment of the person who will replace her will be done on merit.

Education Minister David Laws, echoed Baroness Morgan’s concerns about political bias, and said the decision had "everything to do with Michael Gove's desire to get his own people on board".

Baroness Morgan claims the decision to get rid of her is part of a pattern which has seen non-Conservative supporters on bodies like the Arts Council and the Charity Commission replaced with loyal Tories. She called it “extremely worrying”.

Harriet Harman, Labour’s deputy leader, said the sacking is part of a “cull of senior, authoritative women and they are all being replaced by men. It is raining men in the Conservative Party.” She told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “It is not a problem of attracting women. It is a problem… of not firing them and replacing them with men.”

The Labour Party claims that Dame Liz Forgan was forced out as chairman of the Arts Council, and was replaced by Sir Peter Bazalgette; Dame Suzi Leather was ousted at the Charity Commission to make way for William Shawcross; and Baroness Kay Andrews was replaced at English Heritage by Sir Laurie Magnus, an investment banker.

Baroness Morgan hit the headlines at the end of last year when she called for more ‘all through’ schools incorporating nursery, primary, secondary and sixth form to help address the gap in development between disadvantaged children and those from better off families.

Baroness Morgan made the speech at a conference organised by the ARK chain of academy schools, of which she is a board member and said: “I think there needs to be a big bold brave move on the under-fives agenda to target funding heavily on the children who will benefit most and increasingly I think to look to strong providers to go further down the system. We've increasingly got five to 18 schools, why not three?” She later amended this to include two-year-olds.

She said that many disadvantaged young children have a “dire” start with children from low income families being up to a year and a half behind their better-off classmates by the age of five.


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