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Ex-Labour education adviser appointed to new Oak board

A former education adviser to Labour’s Sir Tony Blair is among three new faces to join the new permanent board of Oak National Academy.

The trio join four others who have sat on the interim board since in place after the curriculum quango was set up as an arms-length government body in autumn 2022.

The appointees include Conor Ryan, who was a senior specialist education adviser to Labour working for former education secretary Lord Blunkett and ex-prime minister Blair.

Most recently, he was director of external relations at the Office for Students until last year. He was also research and communications director at The Sutton Trust charity.

Hardip Begol, an Ofqual board member, has also been appointed. He worked for the Department for Education from 2012 to 2014 and was the director responsible for the reform of the national curriculum, GCSEs and A-levels and school accountability. He was also chief executive of Woodard Academies Trust.

The last new member is Annie Gardner, a managing director at technology consulting company Slalom. She has also advised DfE as part of the further education external advisory panel.

They join Henry de Zoete, the prime minister’s artificial intelligence adviser, Sean Harford, Ofsted’s former national director of education and Cassie Buchanan, chief executive of Charter Schools Educational Trust.

The board is led by Sir Ian Bauckham, the new Ofqual chief regulator. Members will serve for an initial three-year term.

Some of the members were Oak appointees, while others were from DfE. Gillian Keegan, education secretary, signed all appointees off.

Ryan, Harford and Gardner were Oak appointees. All had to apply through the open public appointments process.

Schools minister Damian Hinds said it was an “exciting opportunity” for the new board to “continue Oak’s good work in reducing teacher workload, improving curriculum delivery, and supporting improved pupil outcomes through the development and provision of free, high-quality, curriculum resources.

“I would like to thank the interim board for their commitment and contribution over the last few months overseeing the development of Oak National Academy as it becomes established as a respected organisation within the education sector.”

In November, bodies representing ed tech and publishing firms were granted permission by a high court judge to proceed with their judicial review of Oak.

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