New faces in education’s top team

18 Aug

Prime Minister Theresa May appointed two new ministers at the Department for Education – Mr Robert Goodwill and Ms Anne Milton.  The rest of the education team remains unchanged and will continue to be led by Ms Justine Greening, the Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities.  Mr Nick Gibbs remains as Minister of State for School Standards and Equalities, Mr Jo Johnson continues to be in charge of Universities, Science, Research and Innovation and Lord John Nash stays on as Under- Secretary of State for the School System.

While we know about and have had experience of the work and impact of the latter four, what do we know about the first two?

I        Robert Goodwill

Mr Robert Goodwill was appointed Minister of State for Education on 12 June 2017.  He will be responsible for

  1. child protection (including protection from child sexual exploitation and safeguarding), local authority children’s social care and family law;
  2. children in care, care leavers and adoption;
  3. childcare policy including delivery of the 30 hours’ free childcare offer, inspection and regulation;
  4. early years policy including inspection, regulation and literacy and numeracy;
  5. funding for publicly funded schools in England to raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils of all abilities (Pupil Premium and Pupil Premium Plus);
  6. funding and policy on free school meals;
  7. special educational needs and disabilities (SEND);
  8. school sports and healthy pupils;
  9. cadets and military ethos in the education system; and
  10. improving social mobility in the 12 opportunity areas

Mr Goodwill has been the Conservative MP for Scarborough and Whitby since 2005.   He was a pupil at the Quaker Bootham School in York and graduated with a science degree in agriculture in 1979 from the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

He was elected a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) in 1999 and served in Brussels and Strasbourg until the European elections of 2004.   He was the Deputy Leader of the Conservative MEPs.

As an M.P., he worked on the Transport Select Committee for 18 months, before being appointed a government whip in 2006 and then securing the post of Shadow Roads Minister in the Transport Team in 2007.   He was re-elected in 2010 and reappointed as a whip before serving as Minister of State at the Department for Transport from December 2015 to July 2016.

In addition to being a politician, Mr Goodwill is a farmer with 250 acres of land near Malton (North Yorkshire), which has been in his family since 1850.  He was managing director of Mowthorpe Ltd since 1995, a company that offers environmentally friendly burials in the North Yorkshire countryside.


II       Anne Milton

Mrs Anne Milton was appointed Minister of State for Education on 12 June 2017.  She has been the M.P. for Guildford since 2010.

She will take charge of

  1. apprenticeships including the apprenticeship levy, traineeships and institutes of technology;
  2. technical education and skills, including T-levels;
  3. careers education, information and guidance;
  4. post-16 funding (including support for young people and adult learners);
  5. further education colleges, sixth-form colleges and local patterns of provision (including area reviews and city deals);
  6. adult education, including the National Retraining Scheme;
  7. reducing the number of young people who are not in education, employment or training; and
  8. leading on the review of funding across tertiary education.

She will also be Minister for Women with overall responsibility for policy on gender equality.

Mrs Milton was a pupil at Hayward Heath Grammar School in West Sussex.  She trained as a nurse at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London and worked for the NHS for 25 years as a district nurse promoting palliative care.

She served as a councillor in the Borough of Reigate and Banstead from 1999-2004 before being elected a member of Parliament in 2005 for Guilford.   She was appointed to the Health Select Committee until December 2006 following her appointment as Shadow Minister for Tourism.   Former Prime Minister David Cameron appointed her Shadow Minister for Health in 2007.  From 2010 to 2012 she served as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Health and whip with responsibility for HM Treasury and HM Household.

III     Robert Halfon

Mr Robert Halfon was elected Chair of the Education Select Committee on 12 July 2017 (he beat four other Conservative M.P.s) having been replaced by Ms Milton as Minister of State for Education.  He succeeds Mr Neil Carmichael, who lost his seat in the June 2017 general election.  Mr Halfon stated that he would never have stood against him were Mr Charmichael to have been re-elected M.P.

Mr Halfon – in the space of a few months – morphed from “gamekeeper” (at the Ministry of Education) to “poacher” as Chair of the Elect Committee (according to Martin George of the Times Educational Supplement).  He will be holding his former colleagues to account and asking them to provide his Committee with accounts of how well (or badly) they are doing.  In particular, he is keen to promote social justice and ladders of opportunity to the most disadvantaged in our society.

He knows much about disadvantage having been born with a moderate form of cerebral palsy and undergoing several major operations as a child and in his early thirties.  Mr Halfon’s father’s family are Italian Jews who lived in Libya. When Colonel Gaddafi grabbed power, his grandfather sent his son (Mr Halfon’s father) to England.   Mr Halfon’s father worked “day and night” to pay the fees for Mr Halfon’s education at the prestigious Highgate School in Hampstead.

Mr Halfon graduated from the University of Exeter having read for a Bachelor of Arts degree in politics.   He later secured an MA in Russian and East European Politics.

He worked as Chief of State for the Conservative MP, Oliver Letwin, and contested the Harlow seat in 2001 and 2005 – losing on both occasions.  He was finally elected M.P. in 2010.  He became Parliamentary Private Secretary of George Osborne on 18 July 2014  before being appointed Minister without Portfolio on 11 May 2015 and Minister of State for Education from 2016 to 2017.

Mr Halfon has served as a school governor in North London and Vauxhall as well as Passmores Academy – the one of Educating Essex fame.

Mr Halfon is looking forward to his new duties, having had experience of the Selection Committee from the other side of the table.  He remarked to Martin George that the Committee does make a difference.   As a minister, he felt that he was “appearing at court” – a bit “nerve-wracking.  I had to learn everything but it was really constructive”.

Though he was never given any reason by Mrs May for his “sacking” as Education Minister, he has huge respect for her.  He told George: “These things happen.  I was very lucky to do a job I loved.  I think that being apprentices minister, to give millions of people skills and training is probably the best possible job, without doubt, the best job you could do in government.”

As Chair of the Education Select Committee, Mr Halfon is determined to push forward on two aspects of his agenda – social justice and skills, productivity and standards.  He proposes to expand his party’s appeal to working-class voters, being a member of the Prospect Union himself. The union represents professionals.

IV     Women in the forefront of educational leadership

Meanwhile, additional to Mrs Anne Milton, it is encouraging to see the growing number of women controlling and leading education in the country.  Ms Justine Greening spearheads this leadership as the Secretary of State for Education.   Across the benches, there is the Labour education spokesperson, Ms Angela Rayner, and Ms Layla Michelle Moran, the Liberal Democrats spokesperson. Ms Moran is the first UK Member of Parliament of Palestinian descent and first Liberal Democrat MP from a minority community.  This is a huge turnaround from the situation in 2011 when three males leading education – Mr Michael Gove, the ex-Education Secretary, Mr Tristam Hunt (Labour) and Mr David Laws (Liberal Democrats) – were the political movers and shakers.

Ms Moran (35) was schooled in six countries, has a physics degree from Imperial College, London, a masters in comparative education from the Institute of Education, University of London, and is a school governor in Oxford.  She has an impressive raft of policy proposals and will be pressing Ms Greening on the following matters.

  1. Improving morale in the teaching profession
  2. Curbing the freedoms of free schools and academies
  3. Government intervention in controlling excessive pay of academy leaders
  4. The neglect of key (softer) skills in the reformed GCSE focus – such as being curious in science and maths and developing thinking
  5. Widening the disciplines in the English Baccalaureate.

In January 2017, Mrs Amanda Spielman succeeded Mr Michael Wilshaw as the Ofsted supremo.  The Chief Regulator at Ofqual (the Office for Qualifications) is Ms Sally Collier and the Director of the Institute of Education University College, London, Ms Becky Francis.  Leading the new Chartered College of Teaching is Dame Alison Peacock.

The new gargantuan union – the National Education Union (NEU), formed when the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL)– will have as one of its two joint secretaries Ms Mary Bousted – formerly of ATL, (her partner being the ex-NUT General Secretary Mr Kevin Courtney).  The General Secretary of the National Union of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers is Ms Chris Keates.

While the nation still has some way to go in equalising pay across the genders – the BBC being a prime example – it appears that education is leading the way.

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