A potential appointment of a multimillionaire Tory party donor, David Ross, as the Chair of Ofsted has caused concerns about its politicisation. This position had been previously held by Labour peer Sally Morgan. David Ross, who co-founded Carphone Warehouse and supports over 20 academy schools through his charitable foundation, is a serious contender for the Ofsted role. His estimated fortune of £800m at its peak has allowed him to donate hundreds of thousands of pounds to the Conservative Party, and he has continued his support by hosting shooting parties at his country estate where former News International CEO Rebekah Brooks was a guest in 2011. Other contenders for the position include Theodore Agnew, another Tory party donor and academy chain founder.
David Ross is known to have a complex personal history, including brushes with the law over financial dealings and prostitution, which may make his involvement in the government’s education policies politically controversial. Although he resigned as the London Mayor’s representative on the 2012 Olympic Games’ organising committee after being caught using shares from Carphone Warehouse as security for personal loans, his David Ross Education Trust continues to have a long-standing interest in education. The Trust currently sponsors more than 20 academy schools and was even asked by the Department for Education to take over Charnwood College, Loughborough’s largest school after it was placed in special measures by Ofsted.
With the appointment process for the Ofsted job still ongoing, its regulator has faced criticism in the past year for its inspection processes and alleged political agenda. Some on the Conservative right argue that Ofsted has been too critical of newly established free schools with some even suggesting that these schools should have a longer grace period or have separate inspection teams like those that cover private schools. Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted’s chief inspector, has had a tough time due to such criticism, which has highlighted the need for a new Chair who can balance the political interests of the government without undermining the authority and independence of the regulator.
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