From education to employment

Former Skills Minister, Gillian Keegan is appointed Education Secretary

Gillian Keegan Education Secretary

The Former Skills Minister is appointed Education Secretary in PM Rishi Sunak’s Cabinet Reshuffle. Gillian Keegan was appointed Skills Minister in February 2020 and was also previously an Apprentice.

Gillian Keegan replaces Kit Malthouse who was appointed by Liz Truss into the Education Secretary role on the 6th September 2022.

Former PM, Liz Truss appointed Gillian Keegan to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in September this year. She was previously minister of state for care at the Department of Health and Social Care from September 2021 to September 2022.

Keegan was previously Skills Minister between February 2020 until September 2021, where she moved on from her Apprenticeship and Skills brief in September 2021 into the Department of Health.

Keegan is the Fifth Education Secretary in a Four Month Period

The Great Reshuffle has seen a series of MPs in the Education Secretary role over a short period of time.

Keegan has been the Conservative MP for Chichester since May 2017.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said:

“It is a privilege to be appointed Secretary of State for Education. As a former apprentice and previous minister at the department, I know how important education is to levelling up opportunities and helping people to build the life they want.

“From childcare support and helping children in care, to improving school standards and giving both young people and adults the skills they need to get great jobs.

“I look forward to engaging with our brilliant nurseries, schools, colleges, universities and all the staff working across our sectors.”

Sector Reaction to Gillian Keegan’s appointment as Education Secretary

Tom Bewick, Chief Executive of the Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB) said:

“The Federation warmly welcomes Gillian Keegan back to the Department for Education, this time as secretary of state.

“As a former skills minister she will know how important post-16 policy is to educational opportunity, lifelong learning, skills and productivity.

“On the latter, there is still much more work to do to successfully implement the Skills Act. This includes ensuring the lifetime skills guarantee genuinely empowers adults to re-train, helping to fill skills gaps and shortages. This will require a cross-governmental effort, including real influence over the Treasury, who are notorious in overlooking the resource needs of FE.

“It’s time now for some stability at the top of government. It is unsettling for learners, employers and educators when ministerial teams change every few weeks. Leadership is about giving people the confidence that the direction of travel is known and the destination is one where all will benefit. I hope Gillian Keegan will look for advice and views outside of Sanctuary Buildings, as was the case previously, when she established the VTQ reference group, engaging FAB’s members.”

Philip Le Feuvre, Chief Strategy Officer at NCFE, said:

“I’m delighted to welcome Gillian Keegan MP into her role as Secretary of State for Education. It’s an area that she already has an excellent knowledge of from her time as skills minister and, as a former apprentice, she is an outstanding endorsement of what our sector can achieve.

“We’re looking forward to working closely with her to champion further education and tackle some of the key challenges ahead, including continually improving and promoting T Levels, addressing workforce issues within social care and other key sectors, providing specialist solutions for learners with SEND to ensure no learner is left behind, making sure both learners and our providers are supported during the ongoing cost of living crisis, and delivering on the commitments made in the Skills for Jobs White Paper.”

Stephen Evans, Chief Executive of the Learning and Work Institute said:

“Congratulations to Gillian Keegan on her appointment as Education Secretary. She knows from her previous role as Skills Minister the power of lifelong learning, skills and apprenticeships to change lives. Our research also shows how improvements in skills can boost economic growth. There is much that is good going on across the learning and skills sectors, but so much more we can all do. That requires more funding – investing now will save money later – but also a step change in how we work together. I look forward to seeing the new Education Secretary’s plans and hope she will be a true champion for lifelong learning.”

Kirstie Donnelly- CEO, City & Guilds said:

“Good to welcome former Skills Minister – Gillian Keegan – who knows the ropes, back into the Department for Education, now one step up as secretary of state.

“As a former apprentice, I look forward to seeing her using her previous on the job learning as she takes the next step in her career journey as Education Secretary.

“Given that we have had five Education Secretaries in the space of a year, what we need more than ever is stability, a listening ear, focus and strong leadership on the many challenges and opportunities which face the skills, apprenticeship and technical education sector. 

“After months of delay and disruption, we need to see the DfE get back on track with a much-needed focus on building an economy with skills and talent as its heart, both now and in future.

“The post-16 education sector plays a critical role in driving prosperity  – through training, re-training and upskilling and we look forward as a sector to working with the Education Secretary on this important agenda.”

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

“My warmest congratulations to Gillian Keegan on her appointment as Secretary of State for Education. AELP were pleased to have a good relationship with Gillian during her time as Skills Minister, and we know that as a former apprentice, she will bring passion and insight to her new role. This first-hand experience of the skills system will stand her in good stead.

“It must be said that this is one of the most challenging times for our sector and the wider economy. AELP members are ready to be part of the solution and work with government to deliver a world class skills system. But you can’t deliver growth without funding high quality and sustainable skills provision. I look forward to working closely with Gillian once again to address these issues.”

Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: 

“We welcome Gillian Keegan to the position of Education Secretary. They are, staggeringly, the tenth education secretary in 12 years, and the fifth in just four months. This does not fill teachers, parents or students with any confidence that this Government is treating the education brief as one of the most important jobs in Cabinet. We can only hope that the self-indulgence of the Conservative party is now over, and they will finally focus on the needs of the nation.

“The low priority given to the education of the nation’s children and young people and the low regard in which this Government holds teachers and support staffhas to stop. When Chancellor, Rishi Sunak was the architect of a wholly inadequate support package for post-pandemic education recovery and has refused to fully fund pay rises which have in any case not kept pace with inflation. He has also presided over years of real-terms cuts to school and college funding, which makes the job of heads so much more difficult. It can only be hoped that the new Education Secretary recognises these challenges and fights the corner of beleaguered staff as well as parents and pupils.

“We look forward to meeting with Gillian Keegan to discuss and resolve the pressing issues facing an education system which their predecessors have run into the ground.”

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

“We welcome Gillian Keegan MP as the new Secretary of State for Education.

“She becomes the ninth Secretary of State for Education this decade, and the fifth this year.

“Education is far too important to be subjected to such damaging levels of instability. The challenges facing schools are urgent and are affecting the lives and life-chances of millions of children, right now.

“Recent analysis shows that this government is due to fall around £2billion short of its education funding pledge. With the ‘Halloween Budget’ looming – and further cuts implied by new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak – the new Education Secretary has just days to get to grips with the reality of the situation facing schools, listen to the profession, and make a compelling case to the Treasury for the funding so urgently needed.

“School leaders will be hopeful that in Gillian Keegan we might now finally have an Education Secretary who understands that education should be seen not as a drain on the nation’s finances, but as the best investment that can be made in our country’s future – and who stays the course to the next election to make education a priority for this government again.”

Baker Dearing Educational Trust chief executive Simon Connell said:

“We welcome Rishi Sunak’s appointment as prime minister and Gillian Keegan’s appointment as education secretary. As former skills minister and apprentice, she understands the need to invest in young people to ensure they have the qualifications, skills, attitudes and aptitudes to be successful in the world of work.

“It is the most rewarding job in government, but the priority now must be for consistent leadership. We hope the DfE’s new ministerial team can commit to strengthening our education system at pre- and post-16.

“Rishi Sunak wants better schools for our young people but that will take investment and support from the top of government. Education funding cannot be allowed to wither if we are to create a high growth, high wage economy and well-trained workers.

“The need for greater funding is particularly great now as schools face spiralling costs, the burden of delivering on ambitious reforms such as T Levels and must recruit and retain an outstanding teaching workforce.

“The Baker Dearing Educational Trust looks forward to working with the new prime minister and education secretary to improve the lives of young people so they can build the economy we need.”

ASCL welcomes fifth Education Secretary in four months

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

“We welcome Gillian Keegan to the role of Education Secretary, but it is a farcical situation that she is the fifth incumbent in the space of four months. This revolving door shows a complete disregard for the importance of what should be a key government post and it must stop.

“Education matters more than this. It is a vital public service. Schools and colleges deserve stable political leadership which addresses the crucial issues of inadequate funding and severe staff shortages caused by a government which has undervalued the workforce and sapped its morale.

“We now look forward to working with the new Education Secretary. We would urge her to focus on what matters most by ensuring schools and colleges have enough money, teachers and support staff to deliver the education that children and young people need and deserve.

“Without these essential resources every other ambition and target is meaningless and educational standards are at risk.”

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