The Department for Education’s top civil servant, permanent secretary Jonathan Slater, has been forced out after Boris Johnson demanded “fresh official leadership” in the wake of the summer exam grading fiasco and rows over face masks in schools.
Mr Slater is the latest casualty of the crisis in education, after Sally Collier quit as boss of exams regulator Ofqual on Tuesday, while education secretary Gavin Williamson has hung onto his post despite calls for his head.
His departure came just hours after Mr Johnson was accused of “shamefully” dodging responsibility for the exams chaos by telling schoolchildren a “mutant algorithm” was to blame.
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In a statement, the DFE said: “The prime minister has concluded that there is a need for fresh official leadership at the Department for Education.
“Jonathan Slater has therefore agreed that he will stand down on 1 September, in advance of the end of his tenure in Spring 2021.”
Susan Acland-Hood, currently interim second permanent secretary, will take over the vacant post on a temporary basis ahead of the appointment of a long-term successor in the coming weeks.
A civil servant of 35 years’ standing Mr Slater is the latest in a long line of Whitehall’s most senior officials to be forced out since Mr Johnson’s re-election in December, including cabinet secretary and national security adviser Sir Mark Sedwill, Foreign Office permanent secretary Sir Simon McDonald and Home Office permanent secretary Sir Philip Rutnam.
Johnson’s close aide Dominic Cummings has made no secret of his desire to shake up Whitehall and centralise power in the prime minister’s office.