The UK Department for Education has lost four Labour-appointed senior civil servants after they all resigned, writes Nick Collins at the Telegraph.
They include permanent secretary Sir David Bell, who became the second-longest serving permanent secretary in any department. It is understood he has left to become vice-chancellor of Reading University.
Bell is said to have told Secretary of Education Michael Gove as early as last year’s election that he planned to stay on for another 18 months at the most, and is expected to clear his desk by the end of the year.
It is believed that Mr. Gove will seek to appoint an outside figure, such as a business leader, to replace Sir David Bell.
Jon Coles, director-general for standards, is to start a new job running a large group of academies while Sue Higgins, director-general of finance, will move to the Department for Communities and Local Government, writes Collins. While Lesley Longstone, head of infrastructure and funding, is set for the top of the New Zealand education department.
The Department for Education denied the moves had been engineered by Mr. Gove, amid claims of a “clear-out” of mandarins appointed by the previous government.
According to a report in the Sunday Times, the civil servants knew that the coalition “had no faith in them” because they disagreed with the Education Secretary Michael Gove’s plans for reform and were trying to stall them, reports PublicService.co.uk.
However, Bell said his three colleagues going was just “natural career progression”, adding:
“It has been a pleasure and a privilege to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Secretary of State in leading one of the most substantial education reform programmes in a generation. It is also simply not true to suggest I have ever been marginalised in key decision-making during the past 17 months – or before.”
A Department of Education spokesman said:
“Sir David has been a very effective and popular Permanent Secretary and led the department through huge change. He will be moving on to a great job at one of Britain’s leading universities.”