College principal confirmed as permanent Social Mobility Commission chair

Alun Francis has been interim chair since Katharine Birbalsingh resigned in January

Alun Francis has been interim chair since Katharine Birbalsingh resigned in January

College principal Alun Francis has been appointed as the permanent chair of the government’s Social Mobility Commission.

Francis, who leads Blackpool and the Fylde College, was named deputy chair of the commission in October 2021 and stepped in as interim chair at the start of this year after Britain’s so-called “strictest headteacher” Katharine Birbalsingh from Michaela Community School in London quit.

Francis has been a notable figure in FE, having led Oldham College as principal since 2010, and then moving to head up Blackpool and the Fylde College this year.

He was also made an OBE in the Queen’s New Year 2021 Honours for his services to education.

The Social Mobility Commission is an advisory non-departmental body, sponsored by the Cabinet Office’s Equality Hub, which seeks to “create a country where the circumstances of someone’s birth do not determine their outcomes in life,” according to its website.

The role of chair pays £350 per day and its holder is required to work up to six days a month.

Francis’s appointment was approved minister for women and equalities Kemi Badenoch after a hearing conducted by the women and equalities select committee.

“I am pleased that Alun has now had his position confirmed and can continue with his important work as chair of the commission,” Badenoch said.

“The experience, knowledge and expertise he has gained through his work in education, as well as in the positions he has held at the Social Mobility Commission, will be vital to his work at the SMC as a champion of social mobility across the UK.”

Resham Kotecha and Rob Wilson will now serve as deputy chair on an interim job share basis.

Both Kotecha and Wilson have been working as commissioners at the non-departmental body since September 2022.

Kotecha is currently global head of policy at the Open Data Institute and is on the Government’s Smart Data Council. Wilson is a former MP and is chair of national wheelchair sports charity WheelPower.

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