From education to employment

James Cleverly has been appointed Education Secretary… as Boris Johnson resigns as PM

James Cleverly

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.

Statement from the new Education Secretary, James Cleverly

Education Secretary James Cleverly said:

“As someone whose grandfather was a teacher and whose children are currently in the education system, I am incredibly passionate about education and proud to be appointed Secretary of State.

“From childcare and exams results, to our Schools White Paper, T Levels and the rest of our revolutionary skills agenda, we have a huge amount of work to do and I am looking forward to getting on with the job. That means ensuring children, young people and their families continue to be supported – they have my full commitment.

“I look forward to engaging with our brilliant nurseries, social workers, schools, colleges, universities and all the staff working across these sectors to realise people’s potential – whatever their backgrounds or wherever they come from.”

Boris Johnson then resigned as Prime Minister about an hour after James Cleverly’s announcement.

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.

Sector Reaction to James Cleverly being appointed Education Secretary in the Great Reshuffle

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Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

“As always, school leaders will welcome a new Secretary of State to their post. I wish James Cleverly every success with his endeavours, he certainly has a packed inbox.

“I hope that we will soon have the clarity of a long-term Secretary of State who can set out a clear plan that deals with the issues, and then stays long enough to see that plan through.

“But I cannot help but reflect that Mr Cleverly is the 8th secretary of state for education since 2010 and the fourth since the last election. Education is far too important to be subjected to such damaging levels of instability. Ofsted would take a very dim view of that level of leadership change in a school.

“The temporary nature of this caretaker cabinet will merely compound the uncertainty. This is simply not good enough. Children and young people deserve better.”

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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.”

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Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: 

“We welcome the appointment of James Cleverly to the post of Education Secretary. As the eighth Secretary of State for Education since 2014, and the third since Tuesday, we hope that he will immediately address the issues that are vital to young children and the teaching profession.

“The causes of the alarming teacher recruitment and retention crisis such as real-terms cuts to pay, excessive workload and the damaging impact of Ofsted, must be resolved. Schools are also seeing serious problems with support staff retention because of poor pay.

“The Schools Bill which is currently making its way through Parliament needs urgent reform to be of any relevance to schools. Instead of repeating the mistakes of previous Education Secretaries, James Cleverly, even as a caretaker Education Secretary, must listen to the profession, parents and students.

“On pay the Secretary of State will very soon need to look at the latest report of the School Teachers’ Review Body on pay and award an inflation-plus rise for all teachers. Anything less than that would be a failure. Nor is it a decision that can be delayed; summer term ends shortly, and school leaders must be in knowledge of the pay rise and any additional funding in order to plan their budget for next year.”

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Mark Dawe, CEO of The Skills Network:

“The impact of the pandemic on education, alongside rising inflation and the need for even greater government investment in the skills system has created the perfect storm for failings in the system.

Now amid last week’s political scenes,  James Cleverly became the fourth Education Secretary to serve in this academic year and the eighth to serve in ten years, during a period of continued socio-political change.

The instability of recent years has left a damaging legacy on education and skills development with disease, war and political un-rest now the norm as we continue to live through historic times. Now alongside a rising cost of living crisis and the “great-resignation”, a recent article by the Financial Times titled “UK companies braced for recession”[1] paints a worrying picture.

The role of education, and particularly skills development, during such periods of intense change is fundamental, with the combined effects of education and skills strengthening financial states throughout the world.

High quality learning and skills is linked to higher earning, lower unemployment, better health and reduced crime and it ensures an internationally competitive economy for host countries.

It is now important that Cleverley continues to drive The Government’s skills agenda, it is of critical importance to the economy and it is the cornerstone to the Levelling Up agenda. The role of digital has become a real tool for success in education in the last few years for those already looking to develop their skills, but even more so for those that just can access the normal delivery of classroom based learning.  It is now important that educators and businesses throughout the country find effective ways to utilise online delivery to improve quality and efficiency.”

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