I have decided to stand down from the Office for Students. My appointment has become a distraction from its vital work of broadening access to higher education and defending academic freedom. Education is my passion and I want now to be able to get on with the work I have been doing to promote and support the free schools movement. These schools have already done a huge amount to raise standards in some of England’s most deprived areas and the next challenge is to extend those benefits to every area of educational underperformance.
The caricature drawn of me in the last seven days, particularly on social media, has been unrecognisable to anyone who knows me. I am a passionate supporter of inclusion and helping the most disadvantaged, as I hope my track record of setting up and supporting new schools demonstrates. But some of the things I said before I got involved in education, when I was a journalistic provocateur, were either ill-judged or just plain wrong – and I unreservedly apologise.
I would like to thank the Prime Minister for standing by me, and drawing a distinction between my earlier life and my subsequent record in education. I would also like to thank Justine Greening, who appointed me to the OfS Board and whose commitment to social mobility I greatly admire. I wish her all the very best in the future. And I’d like to congratulate Damian Hinds on his appointment as Education Secretary. I know that he is equally passionate about helping children from the poorest backgrounds to succeed in life. His job is one of the most significant in Government. I cannot think of a more important mission.
Finally, I would like to extend my best wishes to Sir Michael Barber, the Chair of the Office for Students, and the other members of the Board. They have a difficult task ahead of them, but I cannot think of a more able group of people to take on this challenge.