Friday, 22 July 2016

Doing the Ministerial shuffle

In the last few weeks, Britain’s political landscape has been shaken. The first big change was the EU Referendum result, with the subsequent resignation of David Cameron, the Conservative leadership race and finally the appointment of a new PM, alongside a team of new ministers.

As someone who’s always been proud to say they attended a comprehensive school, I felt that it was positive news the new Secretary of State heading up the Department for Education shared a similar educational background.

Justine Greening’s appointment to head up the department has doubtless come as further good news to those who attended a sixth form college, as she is well known for sitting her A Levels at one, before progressing on the well tread higher education pathway. This, it has been argued, will stand her in good stead as she moves into her new position. The chief executive of the AoC, Martin Doel, told TES that he was ‘pleased’ her good knowledge of the FE and skills sector as well as other college issues. The new Secretary of State herself also feels comfortable with FE, stating in the past that it was a ‘vital’ pathway for students, and also promoting her commitment to education as a tool for social mobility.

Justine Greening comes to the role from DFID Pic:

But she will undoubtedly face challenging times, as austerity endures and funding continues to dry up. There are also other big changes in her own department, which will undoubtedly cause fresh challenges, as the DfE takes on responsibility for further education policy, alongside apprenticeship and wider skills policy.

These changes make a lot of sense in my view, with the DfE able to act in a more strategically synchronised manner – a style of working I’ve previously advocated. Rather than the DfE’s responsibility for education automatically cutting off at age 18, the new changes will ensure that there is greater joined up thinking in order to ensure that students – whatever their age – are getting the best possible further education outcomes. And surely that’s good news.

This new style of working will also mean the incoming Apprentices and Skills Minister, Robert Halfon, gets the benefit of working in one department, rather than splitting his time between BIS and the DfE. And Mr Halfon will be bringing a solid knowledge of the FE and skills sector to the role, having had significant experience of it and as a leading Westminster champion for apprenticeships.

Robert Halfon is the new skills minister Pic:

So am I pleased with the changes at the Department for Education? While I’m certainly not disappointed by them, I think it’s really a question of waiting to see what happens as a consequence of the ministerial shuffle, as well as the departmental shuffle. I would like to think joining up the responsibilities of the new Apprentices and Skills Minister to have him working with one department will make education policy ever more robust for every learner, but as with most things in life, only time will really tell.

Regardless of what might happen in future, I would like to wish all of the new ministers a warm welcome, and say that I look forward to working with you to further our common goal of getting the best possible outcome for every student.

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