Who We Are

Geoff Barton

Geoff trained as a teacher at Leicester University, and taught English for 32 years, including 15 years as headteacher of a large comprehensive school in Bury St Edmunds in 2002. He was elected General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders in April 2017, after serving as a longstanding member of the ASCL Council and founding chair of its Pedagogy Committee.

Neil Carmichael

Neil was Conservative Member of Parliament for Stroud from 2010 to 2017, during which time he held the role of Chair of the Education Select Committee, with the ability to scrutinise the Department for Education and provide oversight on behalf of Parliament. After leaving Parliament, he has been appointed honorary professor of Politics and Education at Nottingham University, and has chaired the Commission of Sustainable Learning for Work, Life and a Changing Economy.

John Cope

John is the CBI’s Head of Education & Skills Policy, leading the CBI’s work across education, from the early years through to lifelong learning and retraining. Alongside this, John chairs the CBI’s LGBT+ Network. Originally from the Midlands, most of John’s career prior to the CBI was spent in policy and communications, including advising three past education ministers and being a founding director of an education and mental health research institute. Outside of work, John is a governor of an SEND school and sits on the Education Policy Institute’s Advisory Board.

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney was formerly a physics teacher in Camden, where he joined the Camden branch of National Union of Teachers. He has over 25 years’ experience as an NUT school representative and association secretary, and became deputy General Secretary of the NUT in 2010. In July 2015 he was voted in as the General Secretary of the NUT with 70% of the vote.

Deborah Eyre

Deborah Eyre is an educational leader and academic researcher in the field of high performing students and schools. Deborah holds a professorship at Oxford Brookes University, an Honorary Professorship at the University of Warwick, and has been an adviser to governments and education foundations in countries around the world. She has previously worked as the Director of the National Academy for Gifted and Talent Youth, and the Global Education Director for Nord Anglia Education.

Christine Gilbert

Christine has been a teacher, a secondary headteacher and a director of education, first in Harrow and then Tower Hamlets, where she also went on to become chief executive. Between 2006 and 2011, she held the post of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector at Ofsted where she brought together three different inspectorates to create a new organisation. A visiting professor at UCL institute of Education, Christine is involved in a range of education projects. She is the independent chair of Camden Learning, a school company, and is supporting the development of a number of school partnerships. As chair of the charity Future First, Christine is an advocate for establishing a thriving alumni community in every state school.

Layla Moran (Patron)

Layla asked for the commission to be formed to address the challenge of the future of education. In order to maintain the independence of the commission she plays no part in any of the meetings of the Commission. The Commission is deeply grateful to Layla for initiating its work. Layla Moran is the Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson and is MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, and was previously a physics teacher.

Jo Owen (Chair)

Jo is co-founder of Teach First, and of Teaching Leaders, Future Leaders, Ambition School Leadership and STIR Education. He is chair of Right to Succeed, BounceForward and STIR Education. Previously he was a partner at Accenture and worked in brand management at P&G. He is the author of 20 books on management and leadership and is the only person to win the Chartered Management Institute gold medal four times for his writing. He can be contacted at jo@ilead.guru

Professor Emma Smith (Research Partner)

Professor Emma Smith is a former secondary school Chemistry teacher and is currently the Director of the Centre for Education Studies at the University of Warwick. Her research interests lie in the field of education and social justice and the role that education policy can play in reducing educational inequalities. She has recently completed a large funded study into inequalities in the educational and employment trajectories of STEM graduates. She is the co-editor of The BERA/SAGE Handbook of Educational Research and her latest book Key issues in Education and Social Justice was published by SAGE in 2018.

Ed Vainker

Ed Vainker is Executive Headteacher and Co-founder of Reach Academy Feltham, a free school opened in September 2012. The school currently has 900 pupils aged 2-18 and has developed a strong reputation. Ed is also the co-founder of the Reach Children’s Hub which offers cradle to career support to young people in Feltham. Prior to founding Reach, Ed taught French, History and Literacy in Peckham and White City, and also worked for Teach For All based in Washington DC. He is a Teach First Ambassador, having been part of the founding cohort in 2003.

James Westhead

James is responsible for building public understanding of Teach First and its vision of ending educational inequality. He oversees Marketing and Communications, External Relations and Fundraising departments. Before joining Teach First in October 2009, James worked for BBC News as its education correspondent. During an 18-year career in broadcasting, James appeared regularly on flagship TV and radio programmes including the Six and Ten O’clock News and the Today programme.

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