You could call it the ultimate lesson in political survival: former Australian Broadcasting Corporation chief Mark Scott has been named as the new Secretary of the New South Wales Department of Education, a move certain lead to more major reforms at the giant organisation.
The appointment is being billed by NSW Premier Mike Baird as a continuation of a push to recruit top leaders from both the corporate and public sectors to the highest ranks of the public service – and it effectively scotches speculation that Mr Scott left the ABC because of differences with key Coalition powerbrokers.
During his term as head of the ABC Mr Scott was persistently accused by sections of the Abbott government and elements of the commercial media industry of failing to redress alleged organisation bias against the Abbott government prior to its implosion.
Mr Scott succeeds Dr Michele Bruniges AM, who began her career as a classroom teacher in south-western Sydney.
In a neat bit of cross-jurisdictional poaching, Dr Bruniges has been appointed the head of the federal Department of Education and Training.
Like Dr Bruniges, Mr Scott also has a strong background in education and education policy having worked as a teacher at Sydney’s St Andrews Cathedral School prior to taking on senior ministerial roles with Greiner (Coalition) government under education minister Virginia Chadwick and Terry Metherell.
“On leaving the ABC, I was asked what I planned to do next. I can think of no more important opportunity than working alongside the teachers of NSW and the staff of the Department to improve teaching and learning in our schools,” Mr Scott said in a statement released by Mr Baird’s office.
“Mark’s appointment takes our reinvigoration of the senior executive of the NSW public service a step further,” Mr Baird said.
“Along with promoting outstanding young talent from within the service, we have sought out the best and brightest from the corporate world.
The appointment of a highly media savvy and digitally literate Education Secretary is also likely to provide some welcome relief for Education Minister Adrian Piccoli who has remained under sustained fire from parts of the tabloid press which have been gunning for his removal.
While the Baird government’s policies of renewed investment and improving the quality of public education – especially in outer suburban and regional areas – has won widespread electoral support, the approach has rankled parts of the independent education lobby that has had to work harder to obtain government money.
“I look forward to working with Mark to continue delivering the most comprehensive set of reforms of school education in a century,” Mr Piccoli said.
“Our focus remains on improving student results and delivering the skills base needed to grow the NSW economy.”
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