John Nash, a wealthy Tory donor, venture capitalist and enthusiastic sponsor of academies, has been appointed an education minister in a move that will delight those seeking faster reform by the education secretary, Michael Gove.
He will be rushed into a peerage to make him the voice of education reform in the Lords but he is also likely to become a key figure in Gove's team at the education ministry.
Nash and his wife have given nearly £300,000 to the Conservative party since 2006, Electoral Commission records show and the Department for Education confirms. His appointment follows Lord Popat of Harrow being made a government whip this week. He has given the Conservatives £288,000 since David Cameron became leader.
Nash runs a charity called Future that is active in sponsoring a range of academies, but it has been agreed with the Cabinet Office that he will play no role in decisions that could be deemed to affect his charity.
He has been asked to take up the job after his predecessor, Lord Hill, a key figure in the administration of John Major, was suddenly elevated to become Conservative leader of the Lords despite his relative inexperience of the upper house.
Nash was chairman of the British Venture Capitalism Association and is a board member of the rightwing thinktank the Centre for Policy Studies. Future took over the running of Pimlico secondary school in Westminster in 2008 amid some controversy and after years of failing as a school. But Future claims its results have vastly improved and will take over the running of a primary school shortly to provide an academy for nursery to sixth formers.
The results show that in December 2010, Pimlico Academy was rated outstanding by Ofsted and GCSE results have risen from 36% 5A*-C including English and Maths in August 2008 to 57% in August 2012. In 2012 83% of A-level students achieved grades A*-C and 46% of leavers gained places at Russell Group or 1994 Group universities.
He has become evangelical in his support for businesses to get their hands dirty improving school standards. He recently wrote: "The ability to take a hopeless situation and, by applying some straightforward business skills, common sense and positive energy, see children who were tearaways a few years ago now engaged in serious academic study, is truly something special to be involved in."
Gove has been an enthusiast for the way in which Nash and his wife, Pamela, have developed the curriculum, recently telling a thinktank "Its new curriculum is as rigorous as any in England – it takes a fastidiously chronological approach to history, starting back in antiquity; it treats all the sciences – physics, chemistry and biology – as separate disciplines with defined and extensive bodies of knowledge from the start of teaching.
"Yet the curriculum is also as innovative as any in the world – encouraging pupils to develop creative links between different subjects, giving pupils a curriculum which is stimulating, challenging, and the best possible preparation for the future."
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