A new team for Education – will it make a difference?

As the final piece of the Department for Education (DfE) ministerial team drops into place Paul Turner, Futures Leader at CACHE, takes a look at the shape of the new team and where it might lead us.

Secretary of State for Education

Heading up the department is the new Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, not unknown to cabinet level appointments but also not unknown to a bit of controversy either. He is familiar with how government and key departments work having held roles as Parliamentary Private Secretary and Secretary of State.

Starting his post university career in manufacturing he maintained an interest in education issues as a county councillor and school governor. He also appears to be a strong advocate of apprenticeships and has valued them better than a university education recently. It also now appears that he has the FE remit under his main education brief.

Minister of State for Universities

Jo Johnson, younger brother of Boris Johnson, has the title of Minister of State for Universities (second time around). This will be a dual role between two departments – Education and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and he will attend Cabinet as a result.

He is a passionate university advocate and may well seek to consolidate even further the role of universities post Brexit.

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families

Kemi Badenoch is the new face in the department with no previous experience of government. She takes on the mantle of Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families, previously held by Nadhim Zahawi. Kemi is a college trained engineer and a member of the British Computer Society and Women’s Engineering Society, as well as having been a primary and secondary school governor.

Minister of State for School Standards and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System

Familiar faces Nick Gibb (Minister of State for School Standards) and Lord Agnew (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System) remain in the department. Nick’s role as Schools Minister has lasted for almost a decade now, serving under 3 Prime Ministers and 5 Education Secretaries.

So where to now?

Boris Johnson, in his first days as Prime Minister, has committed his government to supporting post 16 FE and skills saying “It is vital that we invest now in further education and skills” (good news for T Levels) and that apprentices are “indispensable to the future of this country”.

Alongside that there are 3 expectations for pre 16 education:

  • More money for schools with a possible £4.6bn on the cards by 2022
  • Continuing support for grammar schools
  • Increased focus on knowledge-rich curriculum with the appointment of Munira Mirza

As for early years, he spoke of the need to encourage schools to allow more childcare on site to ease the shortage in the capital and announced an £8m fund to this effect. However the early years sector is calling on him to deal urgently with the underfunding of 30-hour childcare, which has made news recently with the continuing closure of nurseries, depriving many families of affordable childcare provision.

Mr Johnson has also announced that his government is going to level up per-pupil funding in primary and secondary schools.

Looking ahead

The new PM and his education team are giving off the right messages – strengthen post 16 FE and skills, invest more money in the pre-16 school system, support the early years and primary schools side, continue to make sure our higher education system remains world class. All of these announcements are welcomed by the sector but many are wanting more concrete and detailed costings to be produced to back up the soundbites, to show that commitment is real and not just promised.

Whatever direction the government takes, NCFE will be monitoring what happens very closely and re-affirming and aligning its services to the policies and agendas that appear. We’ll continue to work withall of our stakeholders and partners to make sure we offer the products that meet the ever demanding requirements of funding, audits, inspections, employers, providers and ultimately our learners.

After all we’ve been around for over 170 years and survived over 30 governmental changes in that time. Resilience, adaptability and continuity are some of our key attributes that we pride ourselves in.