Toby Young quits as head of charity backing flagship free schools

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Toby Young has left his role as head of a charity supporting the Government’s flagship free schools, it has been announced.

The journalist-turned-free school pioneer said he stepped down because media attention had become a distraction from the work of the New Schools Network (NSN) – which has run the government contract to support groups applying to set up free schools.

A statement published on the NSN website said: “The Trustees of New Schools Network today announced that Toby Young has resigned.

“Toby has concluded that the media attention his continuing presence at the helm of NSN is attracting has become a distraction from the vital work it is doing and, for that reason, he has decided to step down.”

In January, ministers faced a backlash over appointing Mr Young as a board member of the new Office for Students after details emerged of a string of controversial comments he had made on social media.

The appointment created a storm of controversy, with a petition calling for him to be sacked gathering more than 220,000 signatures.

Nine days after it was announced, Mr Young resigned from the post and apologised for the comments.

In the statement, the trustees said they are “grateful for Toby’s work” and will announce the appointment for an interim director in due course.

“Free schools are more likely to be rated Outstanding by Ofsted than all other types of schools, are more popular with parents and are getting better results.

“That extraordinary success story is due to the hard work and commitment of the groups who have set up those schools, as well as their governors, staff and students.

“But NSN’s staff also deserve some of the credit.

“NSN has worked with over two-thirds of the 691 free schools that have opened or been approved to open so far and the charity will, I am sure, remain at the heart of what is proving to be the most successful education policy of the post-war period.”

Mr Young founded the West London Free School, the first free school to sign a funding agreement in 2011, and took up the post at the NSN in January last year.

It has been reported that he was paid around £90,000 a year for the role.

The NSN is a charity set up in 2009 that has been responsible for delivering the Government’s free school programme.

Free schools – a key plank of Conservative education policy introduced under David Cameron – are new state schools set up by groups including charities, parents and teachers.

It was reported by the Guardian on Thursday that ministers have agreed to reappoint the NSN to run the government contract supporting groups applying to open free schools.

The Government has not commented on this.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “The role of director is entirely a matter for New Schools Network’s trustees.”

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