From education to employment

Michelle Donelan Resigns as Education Secretary, just two days into the Job!

Michelle Donelan - Education Secretary

Over 50 Ministers and Aides have resigned from Government in the Last 48 Hours!

Michelle Donelan had been appointed Education Secretary on July 5th, while former Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi was appointed Chancellor. Nadhim Zahawi has replaced Rishi Sunak who earlier resigned as Chancellor.

Michelle Donelan was previously the Minister of State for Higher and Further Education from 2020 to 2022. She is the MP for Bradford on Avon, Chippenham, Corsham, Melksham and the villages since 2015. In 2015 she worked on the Education Select Committee and particularly the sub-committee on Education, Skills and the Economy.

She has a BA in History and Politics from the University of York and went to school at County High School in Leftwich.

In her earlier career before stepping into the World of politics, she was involved in marketing, working on Marie Claire and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). Which is great prep for the World of Politics!

But now, Donelan has joined the rest of the 50+ ministers in resigning!

Why did the reshuffle occur?

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The reshuffle had occurred due to Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid resigning, literally within minutes of each other earlier. Rishi Sunak said in his resignation letter:

“However, the public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously. I recognise this may be my last ministerial job, but I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning”

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologised later in the evening for appointing a Tory MP to his government who had faced allegations of sexual misconduct. Mr Johnson said in this interview that he ‘bitterly regrets’ appointing Chris Pincher to the Deputy Chief Whip role, after being told verbally several years ago about the complaint.

The Conservative Party Vice-Chairman Bim Afolami resigned his position during an interview on live TV during the evening as well. It was an unprecedented day for resignations in the Conservative Party over Boris Johnson’s leadership.

So what does this mean? … the initial noise will be around Boris Johnson and his interview about Chris Pincher (who had been accused of sexual misconduct, which the PM knew about this before he appointed Pincher as Deputy Chief Whip. The interview had one of the funniest lines asked by an interviewer ‘is it Pincher by name, Pincher by nature?’… but then again, this is nothing to make light of. There are now several incredibly frightening reports of basically sexual harassment coming out and the World of Politics and this is the workplace and this shouldn’t be tolerated in work, at home, on the bus…. and certainly not in parliament where surely examples to the rest of the country should be made.

Earlier Rishi and Sajid resigned within moments of each other… plus The Conservative Party Vice-Chairman Bim Afolami resigned his position during an interview on live TV… all in the same day. I mean this is pretty dramatic stuff and shows the seriousness of the situation.

So what does the appointment of Nadhim Zahawi and Michelle Donelan mean?

Truth is, no one knows yet… this is a fast-moving situation… as we saw yesterday.

Interestingly for the sector, Rishi was very interested in Skills and Employability, this is the guy who launched KickStart, ReStart, the Plan for Jobs… Rishi Sunak was the Chancellor, this is incredible… but now Nadhim is in the hot seat (I met him last year and I really, really liked him)… Nadhim understands the importance of Skills, Apprenticeships, T Levels… so now this is the guy who literally holds the purse strings in Parliament.

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Also, Nadhim has an amazing story, he literally was a refugee who came to the UK on a boat… faced racism as a kid… worked hard and is now arguably the second most powerful person in politics in England, that is an amazing story and hopefully an inspiration to many. So with Nadhim’s experience (he certainly got things sorted with sourcing several large warehouses full of the vaccines). We have someone with a very interesting life experience, who understands education, skills and the importance of giving people options and opportunity.

So let’s see what happens next!

Sector Response

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David Hughes, AoC chief executive said:

“In May, I wrote to Nadhim Zahawi asking him to make the case to the Treasury for extra funding to boost college staff pay in light of the enormous challenges in recruiting and retaining staff to teach the skills vital for our economy. He provided a positive response which recognised the need for action. I hope he remembers this challenge now that he has the keys to Number 11, because he knows that colleges need more investment if we are to have the economic growth he will be working hard to achieve.

“The education colleges provide is crucial to boosting productivity, growing the economy and filling skills gaps. I wish the Chancellor well in his new role and hope he continues to make the case for fairer funding for FE.

“I am pleased to welcome Michelle Donelan to her new post as Education Secretary. She has been at the forefront of the government’s ambitious skills agenda, and we look forward to continuing to work with her on successfully delivering the rollout of T Levels, HTQs and boosting apprenticeships.”

Jane Hickie, Chief Executive, AELP

Jane Hickie, Chief Executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) said:

“I congratulate Michelle Donelan MP on her appointment as Secretary of State for Education and look forward to working with her. I hope she champions skills, apprenticeships and lifelong learning as much as her predecessor did. I would also like to congratulate Nadhim Zahawi MP on his appointment as Chancellor of the Exchequer. At a time when training providers and employers are struggling with the impact of inflation and rising costs, I hope he will use his new role to offer FE some much-needed support and stability.”

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Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

“While we extend a warm welcome to Michelle Donelan as Education Secretary and wish her well in her new role, we have to express our concern at the high turnover rate of Education Secretaries. This is the sixth incumbent in eight years and the third during Boris Johnson’s premiership. Education is a vital public service and a complex sector which requires deep understanding, knowledge and continuity. This constant chopping and changing does not provide stable leadership.

“Nadhim Zahawi has been in the post for less than a year during which time he has introduced a schools white paper which proposes very significant attainment targets and structural changes to the education system with no real idea of how either of these objectives will be achieved. A large section of the accompanying Schools Bill has had to be withdrawn because of criticism that it represented an unacceptable centralisation of power.

“Michelle Donelan will therefore face a considerable challenge in taking forward these proposals. Furthermore, the actual crisis facing schools and colleges is the fact that there is a very serious problem of teacher shortages which is making it difficult for them to recruit the teachers they need. This comes after a decade of pay erosion which has seen the real value of salaries fall by a fifth. It is a crisis compounded by soaring energy costs which are putting intense strain on budgets that simply cannot withstand any more pressure. These are real and present dangers to the education system that will require urgent resolution.”

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Commenting on the resignations of almost all ministers from the Department for Education, Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: 

“It is simply not credible to claim a government is still governing when the education department almost entirely empties itself of ministers in a little over 24 hours. At the rate of resignations, there is no prospect right now of an education department fit to oversee any of the challenges of the coming weeks.

“We can only hope that any eventual successor, emerging from this chaos, will reflect on the Government’s recent difficulties over the Schools Bill. It is irrelevant to the actual situation in schools and the many pressing issues in education. Any Government serious about raising outcomes for young people would listen to the profession, parents and students about what is needed rather than repeating the mistakes of the most recent education ministers by trying to pursue huge structural reforms on a flimsy evidence base

“There are many issues that are vital to our young people and those who educate them. We need a Secretary of State to fight a battle with the Chancellor for schools funding. We need a Secretary of State to deal with the crisis in teacher recruitment and retention and support staff retention. We need a Secretary of State looking at the STRB report who can also decide to award a pay rise which at least matches inflation. The last of these is perhaps most pressing, as the summer term ends soon and school leaders must be in knowledge of the pay rise and any additional funding in order to plan their budget for next year. It is deeply inconsiderate and insulting to everyone not to resolve this matter by the end of term.”

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Commenting as the Prime Minister looks set to stand down, following a wave of resignations including two Secretaries of State for Education in 24 hours, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

“It is vital that the government’s internal turmoil does not get in the way of addressing the urgent real-world challenges facing education and the country, not least of which is the current cost-of-living crisis and its impact on schools, staff, children and families.

“Over recent months political scandal and the nature of headline politics has replaced the activity of governing the nation. The impact on schools and children has been profoundly damaging.

“Schools are short of funds, the demands upon school leaders and their teams increasingly stretch  beyond the core mission of education and are unstainable. We simply do not have enough resources, teachers, leaders or children’s support services to ensure the next generation will be equipped to deal with future this country faces unless the next administration brings urgent support to education.

“We have a moment now to really grasp the nettle, reverse growing child poverty, fund schools properly, invest in children and family services, reverse the recruitment and recruitment crises of teachers and school leaders. If the next PM and cabinet fail to address the needs of young people they will not be the generation lost to covid but the generation lost to political ineptitude.

“As always school leaders stand ready to provide their advice and expertise to the government of the day. If education is to be successful those school leaders will need more than warm words about the place of education they will need tangible support.”

Zoë Billingham, director of IPPR North said: 

“Westminster chaos is, once again, harming the country. Meanwhile the UK’s deep regional divides are growing and people and places are being failed.  

“It’s time to break the cycle. The next Prime Minister should devolve real power and resource to regions like the North, so that progress in communities can’t be delayed or halted because of political chaos in Westminster.

“We need sustained action to power up our regions. We call on the next Prime Minister to ensure rebalancing the economy is at the heart of government’s plan and to take immediate action through legislation currently going through Parliament to commit to this agenda for the long-term”.

Baker Dearing Educational Trust chief executive Simon Connell commented:

“We are sorry to see Nadhim Zahawi leave the Department for Education. Although he only served for a short time as secretary of state, he was clearly a keen advocate of skills and technical education. As chancellor, we would encourage him to increase investment in this area to ensure young people are equipped for the jobs of the future. In particular, greater accessibility for school and college leavers into higher and degree apprenticeships must be a priority.  

“We welcome the appointment of Michelle Donelan as education secretary. As universities minister, she has pushed for school leavers to consider options other than universities which is to be welcomed. Whilst she has much to do, given the weight of recent evidence to re-think the pre-16 curriculum, we hope that she will take on board the need to re-introduce technical and creative subjects back into schools, and bring employers closer to the classroom, in order to better prepare young people for the arrival of T Levels.”

More to follow shortly….

Alex Burghart Resigns as Skills Minister

Skills Minister Alex Burghart has resigned from his post. In a Tweet he said: “It is with great regret that I am today resigning as a Minister in the Department for Education – I am very grateful to the Prime Minister for having given me the opportunity to serve”.

Alex Burghart was Skills Minister from 17th September 2021 until earlier today (6th July 2022).Which is a total of 292 days! He resigned in a group letter of five other Ministers. The closing paragraph of the group letter says:

“However, it has become increasingly clear that the government cannot function given the issues that have come to light and the way in which they have been handled. In good faith, we must ask that, for the good of the party and the country, you step aside.”

Tuesday (5th July) saw Rishi Sunak resign and be replaced by Nadhim Zahawi, and Michelle Donelan replace Nadhim as Education Secretary. However, Michelle has now also resigned!

James Cleverly has been appointed Education Secretary

James Cleverly has been appointed as education secretary. James Cleverly is the third person to hold the Education Secretary post in the past week! Michelle Donelan was previously in the Education Secretary post for two days, then resigned. Donelan was promoted after Nadhim Zahawi was promoted to Chancellor after Rishi Sunak resigned earlier in the week.

Skills Minister Alex Burghart also resigned earlier this week as well.

James Clevery has been MP for Braintree in Essex since 2015, and was chairman of the Conservative Party in 2019-2020.

James Cleverly was appointed Minister of State (Minister for Europe and North America) in the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) on 8 February 2022.

He was previously Minister for Middle East and North Africa at the FCDO. James was first appointed as a joint Minister of State in the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development on 13 February 2020. He was first elected as the Conservative MP for Braintree in May 2015.

James was Minister without Portfolio from 24 July 2019 to 13 February 2020 and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Exiting the European Union from April 2019 to July 2019.

Commenting on the appointment of James Cleverly as Education Secretary, Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

“These are clearly unusual times and the fact that we have another new Education Secretary less than 48 hours after the appointment of Michelle Donelan has to be seen in that context, although it is frustrating that important government roles currently seem akin to political musical chairs.

“Nevertheless, we welcome James Cleverly to the post and wish him well. It is of paramount importance that there is political stability going forward given the fact that there are several crucial issues facing the education sector including the teachers’ pay award, exam results, teacher shortages and severe funding pressures exacerbated by soaring energy costs. We look forward to discussing these matters with Mr Cleverly and we hope to work with him constructively in the best interests of children and young people.”

Greg Clark Appointed as New Levelling Up Secretary

Michael Gove was sacked from being Secretary of State for Levelling Up after he urged PM to resign. Since then, Greg Clark has now replaced Gove as Secretary for Levelling Up.

Who is Greg Clark?

Greg Clark, Levelling Up Secretary

Greg lives in Tunbridge Wells with his family. Born in Middlesbrough, Greg Clark attended the local St Peter’s Comprehensive, South Bank. He went on to study Economics at Cambridge University and was awarded his PhD at the London School of Economics.

Before being elected to Parliament in 2005, Greg worked for the Boston Consulting Group and as the BBC’s head of Commercial Policy, and was Director of Policy for the Conservative Party.

Greg has served as a Government minister for nine years continuously, five in Cabinet, including most recently as Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.

What else is happening?

Michelle Donelan had been appointed Education Secretary on July 5th, while former Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi was appointed Chancellor. Nadhim Zahawi has replaced Rishi Sunak who earlier resigned as Chancellor.

But now, Donelan has joined the rest of the 50+ ministers in resigning! Since her resignation, James Cleverly has now been appointed Education Secretary.

Skills Minister Alex Burghart has resigned from his post as Skills Minister. In a Tweet he said: “It is with great regret that I am today resigning as a Minister in the Department for Education – I am very grateful to the Prime Minister for having given me the opportunity to serve”.

Read about why the reshuffle occurred here.

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