By Tim Montgomerie
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Quite a coup for Policy Exchange (PX) today with the news that James O'Shaughnessy will be joining Neil O'Brien's team on a short-term basis to work on a project aimed at establishing school federations. James worked on supply-side policies for education and housing when he was PX's highly-respected Research Director before he then joined Conservative HQ and then Number 10 as Head of Policy.
In today's Times (£) James has written about his belief in the need to change expectations inside the education system:
"Vacancies in key positions offer the opportunity to expand the group of reformers around the Education Secretary. The appointment of Liz Sidwell, the former CEO of the Haberdashers’ Aske’s Federation, as Schools Commissioner and that outstanding head teacher Sir Michael Wilshaw as the new Chief Inspector of Schools are very welcome. The Prime Minister should now encourage Mr Gove to go farther and appoint a set of reform-minded outsiders to top education posts throughout the public sector. A demonstrable commitment to raising standards must trump time served in Whitehall as the main criterion for promotion."
He finished his piece with the hope that David Cameron leaves Michael Gove – ConservativeHome's Conservative of 2011 – in place until the end of the parliament:
"The cause of education reform needs Mr Gove’s inspirational leadership until at least the end of the Parliament. Happily, Mr Cameron doesn’t like moving ministers if he can help it, and by leaving Mr Gove in post the Prime Minister can help his Secretary of State to join the pantheon of great education reformers."
Amen to that.
Oxford-educated, a family man with two young children, a big AFC Wimbledon supporter, James is a bit cooler than your typical Tory wonk. Although more of a Cameroon than, say, me… I would have loved to see him enjoy more power at Number 10 – rather than the civil servants who now dominate policy-making inside Downing Street. Nonetheless he seems to have landed on his feet and I wish him every success in this exciting new role.