The government yesterday (11 Sept) confirmed Michelle Donelan as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families, as Chris Skidmore returns as joint Minister of State for the Department for Education and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Minister for the School System, Lord Agnew, will take on responsibility for the further education provider market, including quality and improvement.
He will also lead on EU exit preparation, delivery of the Careers Strategy, the Opportunity Areas programme, school food and safeguarding in schools and post-16 settings, in addition to his existing brief.
Minister Donelan began the role on Tuesday 10 September, following the start of her predecessor Kemi Badenoch’s maternity leave.
She takes on responsibility for children’s social care, special educational needs and disabilities – including high needs funding – disadvantage and social mobility and support for the home learning environment.
She will also continue to support the Secretary of State in his role as skills lead, including on the delivery of T-Levels, apprenticeships and adult education, in recognition of the important role technical education plays as the country prepares to leave the European Union.
Minister for Children and Families Michelle Donelan said:
"I truly believe that a good education is the key to creating a fair society where everyone, no matter where they come from or their circumstances, has opportunities to succeed.
"From the earliest years of children’s lives to the point at which they make decisions about their further education or training, I am proud to be joining a department that is focusing its efforts on the most disadvantaged in society."
Minister Donelan remains as a Government Whip, taking on the role at the Department for Education on an unpaid basis for the duration of Kemi Badenoch’s maternity leave. She was previously a member of the Education Select Committee between July 2015 and October 2018.
Minister Skidmore returns as Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, following the resignation of Jo Johnson on Thursday 5 September.
Minister of State for School Standards Nick Gibb will take on policy for early education and childcare including funding, support for the early years workforce, curriculum, quality and the early education entitlements.
He will also add responsibility for PE and school sport and the Pupil Premium to his existing portfolio.
Professor Dame Ann Dowling OM DBE FREng FRS, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said:
"I am delighted Chris Skidmore has returned to the post of Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation.
"His experience and enthusiasm for research and innovation are crucial at a time when government is planning how to deliver on its ambitions to significantly increase levels of research and development spending. The Academy looks forward to working with him again on this and navigating the UK’s participation in EU research and innovation programmes.
Lawrence Barton, Managing Director of leading West Midlands training provider, GB Training, has issued the following comment:
"The constant reshuffling and dividing up of the skills brief is undermining the Government's pledge that further education and skills are central to its agenda.
"First there was the curious delay in the allocation of the skills brief at all - leading to rumours Downing Street had forgotten about the role entirely. Next was the announcement that skills and apprenticeships were so central to the Government's plan for action that the brief was to be assigned to the Education Secretary himself backed up by Kemi Badenoch, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for children and families. This move, it was claimed, would give the the skills brief the attention it required plus senior representation at the Cabinet table.
"With Badenoch's temporary withdrawal while on maternity leave responsibilities were then passed to Michelle Donelan, serving in an interim capacity.
"Less than a fortnight later the latest announcement is that Lord Agnew is to take on part of the brief. This constant shuffling around of FE responsibilities is undermining the Government's claim that it's a core priority. Instead, it's further fuelling speculation that this is all the symptom of a botched oversight by Downing Street.
"I hope both for the Government's sake, and learners', that that is wrong."
Association of Employment and Learning Providers chief executive Mark Dawe said:
"AELP would like Lord Agnew to take a very hard look at the current delivery of the Careers Strategy. The Education Committee in the House of Commons has rightly raised questions about its effectiveness and value for money, and last month WorldSkills and OECD published a report saying that we ranked rock bottom for the quality of advice young people are receiving.
"We still hear every day stories of how highly successful apprentices never heard about apprenticeships while at school or college and of young people being urged to sign up for academic degree courses of questionable value. Enough is enough and the minister must get a grip on this.
"We will be interested to hear more Lord Agnew’s responsibilities for quality and improvement. There is still too much complexity in terms of sector oversight when Ofsted should be the lead body and provider intervention policies could definitely work better for the apprentices and learners affected."
AoC Chief Executive, David Hughes said:
“I look forward to working with Lord Agnew again as he takes on responsibilities for further education. With a renewed focus on colleges and the role they play in driving the economy, closing the skills gap and raising productivity it is a crucial time for those working within the Department for Education. It is widely accepted that colleges have been neglected politically and financially for too long. The spending round announcement was the start of a new and proper commitment to the sector and I hope that this latest appointment means that colleges will be a big part of the department’s future planning.”
Tom Bewick, Chief Executive of the Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB), said:
"FAB welcomes Lord Agnew’s new responsibilities for skills policy and we very much look forward to working with him. With all the reforms underway to qualifications, apprenticeships, external quality assurance and T-Levels, it is vital that the ball is not dropped by the Department for Education.
“I appreciate that the Secretary of State is sincere about his commitment to the sector. This is evident by the attention he has already shown FE and the spending round. However, it is also becoming apparently clear that the abolition of a dedicated Minister of State was a retrograde step. In practical terms, it means that a lot of the day-to-day direct access that the sector enjoyed when Anne Milton was the Minister is now restricted by the fact that Gavin Williamson has such a wide range of responsibilities. Inevitably, England’s schools and universities will command most of his attention. Let’s hope Lord Agnew can readdress the balance.”