From education to employment

Dr Jo Saxton to Step Down as Chief Regulator of Ofqual

Dr Jo Saxton

The Board of Ofqual is today announcing that Dr Jo Saxton will be stepping down as Chief Regulator. Dr Saxton will be leaving Ofqual at the end of December but will continue to play a central role in the education system, as she takes up post as Chief Executive of UCAS in January 2024.

Dr Saxton has served as Chief Regulator since September 2021, and in that time has overseen the return of exams for GCSEs and A levels and reinstated pre-pandemic grading, giving grades currency and value indefinitely. She also introduced a new Level 3 results deadline and awarding process, which meant that vocational qualifications were delivered on time in summer 2023, following the significant delays experienced by too many students in the previous year. This will continue as a permanent feature of the qualifications system from here on.

Dr Saxton, Chief Regulator, said:

It is a significant honour to hold public office and I take my duties and commitments to students of all ages extremely seriously. Throughout my time at Ofqual I promised that students would be my compass and that promise remains intact.

I am very proud of what we have achieved over the past 2 years. I fundamentally believe that a return to exams and pre-pandemic grading was the right and fair thing to do for students of all ages. I am also an ardent champion of parity – it was wrong that there were delays in students receiving their vocational qualifications in summer 2022, and I’m pleased we have been able to change the system so that can never happen again.

I will be sad to leave so many brilliant colleagues and friends at Ofqual, but I know that the organisation has strong foundations and is extremely well positioned to continue to ensure public confidence in our qualifications system. For me, I am delighted that I am able to continue to serve students albeit in a different role, when I join UCAS early in 2024, returning to the sector where I started my career.

Secretary of State for Education, Gillian Keegan said:

I am hugely grateful to Jo for guiding Ofqual through the challenges that followed the pandemic, ultimately overseeing a smooth return to exams and normal grading.

Jo’s knowledge and experience have been invaluable as we’ve navigated the past 2 years and returned to the exam arrangements that best serve young people.

I look forward to continuing to work with Jo in her new role at UCAS, supporting students to progress onto university, degree apprenticeships and the world of work.

Sir Ian Bauckham CBE, Chair of Ofqual said:

While it is with sadness that we bid farewell to Jo Saxton as Chief Regulator, we are enormously grateful to her for her determined and principled leadership over the past 2 years. In that time Ofqual has led the re-introduction of examinations after the challenges of the Covid period, and re-established normal grading. Fairness to students has been Jo’s abiding priority, and there is no better legacy than fair examinations, graded equitably and delivered on time. We wish Jo well in her next role.

A public appointments process will soon be underway for the new Chief Regulator. The existing senior leadership team and governance of Ofqual will provide continuity of leadership to the organisation and an interim Chief Regulator will be confirmed in due course.

Sector Response

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

“We’ve greatly valued the constructive and receptive manner in which Jo Saxton has listened to the voice of school and college leaders and we look forward to working with her again when she takes up her new role as chief executive of UCAS.

“We also look forward to working with Jo’s successor once that appointment is made. We will continue to make the case for the introduction of a new type of qualification which better recognises the achievements of the ‘forgotten third’ of young people who at the age of 16 fall short of at least a Grade 4 GCSE in English and maths.

“It is effectively baked into the system that this is the fate of one-third of young people every year with the consequent damage to their future education choices, career options and morale. This cannot go on.”

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