Little Has Changed
In an interesting blog article Richard Fraser argues that little has changed in education since 2001 starting by saying:
In 2001, a certain Theresa May MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Education, addressed the PAT [now Voice] Annual Conference in Cardiff.
Her speech reveals how little has changed in education since then: teachers working excessive hours, performance-related pay, SATs, admissions….
Interestingly, some of Mrs May’s criticisms of the Labour Government’s education policies have been made by politicians, unions and practitioners about the current Conservative Government and its Coalition predecessor.
The following Briefing from The School Bus is also worth a read:
The Brief: Education under Theresa May’s government
On 14 July 2016, Prime Minister Theresa May removed Nicky Morgan as Education Secretary and replaced her with former Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening. The question is: what are Ms May’s views on education and how will her Cabinet reshuffle influence the educational landscape?
Theresa May’s stance on education
Theresa May’s experience of both public and private education, as well as her experience as Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Employment between 1999 and 2001, mean that she is well-placed to consider factors which affect both sectors.
As a strident supporter of free schools, it is expected that the Prime Minister will build upon her predecessor David Cameron’s work to expand the number of free schools in England. Speaking at a Policy Exchange conference, Ms May said that she believed Police and Crime Commissioners should be involved in founding alternative provision free schools, to bring together “the two great reforms of the last Parliament – police reform and school reform”.
The influence of Nick Timothy
Along with promoting the rise of free schools, it is possible that Ms May will give her support for the return of grammar schools, as she gave her approval to a grammar school “annexe” in her Berkshire constituency, coinciding with the expansion of the much debated Weald of Kent Grammar School in Tonbridge.
Nick Timothy, former director of the free school charity, the New Schools Network (NSN), has proved to be a valuable adviser to Theresa May. Mr Timothy previously served as Ms May’s Chief Policy Adviser for three years and ran her leadership campaign. He resigned from his position at the NSN in July 2016 to act as joint Chief of Staff at Downing Street alongside Fiona Hill.
Nick Timothy, who grew up in a working class area of Birmingham, shares Theresa May’s stance on grammar schools, citing his grammar school education as an opportunity which changed the course of his life. It was also reported in 2015 that Mr Timothy called for laws banning further academic selection in state schools to be scrapped.
Described in the Financial Times as “hugely influential, very clever and full of policy ideas” and (perhaps unfairly), as the “political brain” and the “wordsmith” of Ms May’s strategic vision, it seems that Nick Timothy’s influence is not to be underestimated on the shaping of the educational landscape.
Justine Greening as Education Secretary
Justine Greening replaced Nicky Morgan as Education Secretary on 14 July 2016, as part of Theresa May’s cabinet reshuffle. The former Secretary of State for International Development and MP for Putney, Roehampton and Southfields was educated at Oakwood Comprehensive School in Rotherham, and is believed to be the first Education Secretary to have attended a comprehensive secondary school.
Ms Greening shares Ms May’s views on social mobility and reform, stating during a 2014 interview that her experience of her father’s unemployment and her comprehensive education meant that she knew what it was like to “start from scratch”.
The majority of Ms Greening’s comments in Parliament regarding education have focussed on international schools, where she supported the development of low-cost private schools; however, she has also discussed the need for equality of opportunity for all young people in the UK.
A major advocate for girls’ education in her former role, Ms Greening staged a Girls’ Education Forum to bring global attention to the issue of girls’ education, so it is expected that she will continue to champion the status of girls’ education in her role as Education Secretary.
Changes to the educational landscape
Alongside major Cabinet changes, Theresa May also expanded the remit of the Education Secretary, meaning that Justine Greening will now be responsible for taking control of schools, skills, further education (FE) and the higher education (HE) sector at a time of severe budget cuts. Leaders in the FE and HE sector have expressed concerns about their budgets being sacrificed to balance school budgets.
It was announced on 14 July 2016 that there is “no statutory requirement” on schools to carry out planned introduction of multiplication tables tests for key stage 2 pupils in 2017; no statement was made about the introduction of the tests in 2017/18. The DfE confirmed that the proposed Year 7 resit tests are also on hold.
Freddie Whittaker (2016) ‘Nicky Morgan sacked as Education Secretary in Theresa May cabinet reshuffle’, <http://schoolsweek.co.uk/nicky-morgan-sacked-as-education-secretary-in-theresa-may-cabinet-reshuffle/> [Accessed: 15 July 2016]
Freddie Whittaker (2016) ‘Department for Education takes on skills and universities in expanded remit’, <http://schoolsweek.co.uk/department-for-education-takes-on-skills-and-universities-in-expanded-remit/> [Accessed: 15 July 2016]
George Parker (2016) ‘Nick Timothy: Theresa May’s political ‘brain’’, <http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/29fa0986-49cf-11e6-b387-64ab0a67014c.html#axzz4ESoXO0lu> [Accessed: 15 July 2016]
Richard Vaughan (2016) ‘DfE takes on skills and higher education in major government shake-up’, <https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-news/dfe-takes-skills-and-higher-education-major-government-shake> [Accessed: 15 July 2016]
Richard Vaughan (2016) ‘Theresa May set to become Prime Minister: six clues about her views on education’, <https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-news/theresa-may-set-become-prime-minister-six-clues-about-her-views> [Accessed: 15 July 2016]
Schools Week (2016) ‘Justine Greening announced as new education secretary’, <http://schoolsweek.co.uk/justine-greening-announced-as-new-education-secretary/>
Sean Coughlan (2016) ‘Big school decisions waiting for green light from Greening’, <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-36783458> [Accessed: 15 July 2016]