The Prime Minister completed a cabinet reshuffle yesterday (15 Sept), the first to be removed in the reshuffle was Gavin Williamson as Education Secretary. Nadhim Zahawi was later confirmed as the new Education Secretary to replace Williamson, Michelle Donelan MP remaining in place as Minister of State. It was then announced on Thursday evening (16th Sept 2021) that Gillian Keegan has moved on from the Apprenticeships and Skills Minister role to the Department of Health and Social Care.
Alex Burghart, Conservative MP for Brentwood & Ongar, was later announced as a parliamentary under secretary of state at the Department for Education and Will Quince, former Minister for Welfare Delivery, was also announced as parliamentary under secretary of state at the Department for Education.
Gavin Williamson was appointed Education Secretary back in July 2019. Gavin Williamson's had the incredibly difficult job as Education Secretary during the Covid-19 pandemic, with schools and college closures (accept for keyworker pupils and vulnerable pupils), changes to exams (from algorithms to teacher assessed grades), much of had never been seen or experienced before the Covid pandemic. Despite this, Gavin Williamson did spend a lot of time and energy looking to transform Further Education and particularly Skills, with aspirations to develop a 'World Class' FE system, and launched the Skills Bill in May 2021.
Sector Response to the news that Gavin Williamson has departed as Education Secretary:
Toby Perkins @UKLabor responds to abolition of Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills
Toby Perkins MP, Labour's Shadow Minister for Further Education and Skills, responding to the abolition of the role of Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills, said:
"Skills shortages are holding our economy back. For all his warm words, the Prime Minister's decision to scrap the dedicated skills minister shows he isn't serious about reskilling our workforce for the future.
"Labour is clear skills are our priority post-pandemic, ensuring we have a workforce equipped for the future. Our recent announcement to create 100,000 new apprenticeships stands in stark contrast to the government clawing back levy funds from companies."
Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, responding to the news Gavin Williamson has been sacked as Education Secretary, said:
"Gavin Williamson has failed children and young people, their parents and our hard working education staff throughout one of the most testing periods in our history.
"Two years of exams chaos and staff abandoned, unsupported and demoralised. That is Gavin Williamson's legacy.
"The Prime Minister has allowed this to happen, keeping a failing Education Secretary in post for months and refusing to fight for children's futures."
Association of Employment and Learning Providers chief executive Jane Hickie said:
“It’s difficult to form a judgement when the DfE is still consulting on key aspects of the Skills for Jobs white paper although AELP felt that the department underestimated the role that independent training providers could play in bringing reform benefits to employers and learners. The white paper also disappointed in terms of the low priority given to level 3 qualifications and below which are vital for levelling up.
“Mr Williamson can take credit however for completing a major part of the apprenticeship reforms which now allows employers of all sizes to express real-time demand for apprenticeships via the digital service. His successor could be well advised to pursue a similar demand-led model for adult learners in the form of individual learner accounts and a less institutionalised approach to reform generally.”
University and College Union general secretary Jo Grady said:
‘Gavin Williamson will be remembered by university and college staff as a disastrous secretary of state who caused deep and lasting damage. From the mutant algorithm which attempted to hardwire inequalities into the exam system, to his negligent mismanagement of the pandemic leading to schools, universities and colleges becoming Covid incubators, Williamson's long list of failures is shocking.
‘Throughout his time as Secretary of State for Education Williamson has pursued an agenda that attempted to undermine the purpose of education, most recently choosing to slash arts and humanities funding in half and extend the marketised, debt-fuelled loan model to our colleges.
‘Rather than responding to the challenges of a global pandemic, he led the charge in a completely pointless culture war against university staff and students. A culture war that was entirely fabricated and led to no positive change in the sector. Wasting such an inordinate amount of time just to satisfy the hardcore Tory base underlines just how little he really cares about education.
‘The next Secretary of State for Education has an opportunity to build a new relationship with the staff and students in our universities and colleges, but they must commit to repairing the damage that has been done by Gavin Williamson.’