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Keegan’s policy aide to advise new Ofsted chief

A key policy aide to Gillian Keegan will become new Ofsted chief Sir Martyn Oliver’s lead adviser, Schools Week has learned.

Rory Gribbell, a senior policy adviser who also previously led on education issues at Downing Street, will take up the role on secondment from the Department for Education early next month.

Oliver will take the reins at the watchdog from Amanda Spielman on January 1.

The appointment comes at a time of heightened scrutiny and criticism for Ofsted. An inquest earlier this month ruled an inspection had contributed to the death of headteacher Ruth Perry.

This week the coroner Heidi Connor issued a prevention of future deaths report, giving Ofsted and the Department for Education 56 days to set out the actions they will take in response to her ruling.

Oliver has stressed he is keen to put his own stamp on the watchdog, with a “big listen” exercise and an aim to have more serving leaders conduct inspections.

He also wants to “look holistically” at how disadvantaged children were supported by all services in each local authority area.

Gribbell has held roles at DfE and Downing Street

In Gribbell, Oliver has appointed an adviser who has been at the centre of education policy for much of the last decade. It was Keegan, Gribbell’s current boss, who appointed Oliver to the role.

He is currently a senior civil servant working on schools and other education policy, but was previously a Conservative political appointee in his role as a special adviser to education secretaries Kit Malthouse and Keegan.

A Teach First alumnus, Gribbell also previously led on education policy in Dominic Cumming’s Number 10 policy unit. He was previously a DfE “teacher in residence” and adviser to former schools minister Nick Gibb.

It is not unprecedented for a former political appointee to take up a job at the inspectorate.

In 2017, Luke Tryl, who served as a special adviser to education secretary Nicky Morgan between 2014 and 2016, became director of corporate strategy at Ofsted.

It is not clear how long Gribbell will be seconded to Ofsted.

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