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The next chair of Ofsted could be a member of the revolutionary communist party as long as they were fit for the job, Michael Gove insisted on Monday.
The education secretary made the point after taking the highly controversial decision to remove Baroness Sally Morgan as chair of Ofsted, which became public over the weekend.
Mr Gove is facing a mounting backlash following his move with both Liberal Democrats and Labour MPs claiming it was politically motivated.
Schools minister and Lib Dem MP David Laws was reported to be “furious” over the perceived attempts by the Conservative cabinet member to “politicise” the schools inspectorate, and he accused him of trying to fill Ofsted with his “own people”.
Reports over the weekend claimed that Mr Gove – backed by Number 10 – intended to place a former Conservative Party donor to the role.
But speaking at the London Academy of Excellence, Mr Gove said that the successful applicant’s political background will have no bearing on whether they were handed the job, insisting that there was an independent system in place for public appointments, overseen by an entirely independent body.
Mr Gove said: “By definition, that independent body will make its recommendation entirely free of any consideration about the political views or background of any candidate.
“So if the right candidate for any public appointment happens to be a member of the revolutionary communist party or someone generous enough to support a political party with their hard earned cash, if they are the right person, then he or she will be appointed and that's the end of it.”
The education secretary’s comments came after a wide-ranging speech, in which he laid the gauntlet down to state schools to rival their private sector counterparts.
He announced proposals for a training programme for non-specialist teachers to teach state school students Classics, and called for schools to try out the Common Entrance exam used by leading independents to select their pupils.
Mr Gove also set out plans for schools to stay open longer to offer extra-curricular activities, and to get tougher on poor behaviour by calling for schools to force misbehaving pupils to carry out school community service.