At one point last week there was hearsay that the final education secretary, Damian Hinds, could stay in his task. This seems comical now.
In fact, it is ludicrous to suppose that the affable however low-energy Hinds could have survived the surprise and awe of Boris Johnson’s arrival in Downing Street. Instead of the brand new education secretary – the fourth given that Michael Gove turned into pushed out for being too poisonous (NB aided by way of the new PM’s backroom boy Dominic Cummings) – is the person sacked barely 3 months ago for allegedly leaking touchy protection facts to the clicking.
True, Gavin Williamson is a hundred% kingdom school knowledgeable, handiest the second one education secretary to have attended a comprehensive school, and reputedly a former school governor, so we should be heartened through that. As leader whip, he changed into as compared to a devious individual from the political mystery House of Cards, yet his missteps as defense secretary were given him the name Private Pike, from Dad’s Army.
He is a smooth operator and political chameleon, having moved seamlessly from David Cameron’s inner circle to Theresa May’s cupboard and now Boris Johnson’s courtroom. His intestine instincts on LGBT rights, for example, an urgent difficulty in the light of the Birmingham faculties conflicts, are difficult to fathom, given his combined balloting record.
He vigorously denied the leak claims against him, yet May felt he changed into no longer honest sufficient to stay in government, which makes him a substandard position version to oversee a nation education device wherein the improvement of character ranks alongside being nicely certified. Let us now not overlook, too, that he is running for a person universally concept to be susceptible to mendacity, who defined black kids as “piccannies”, homosexual guys as “busboys” and Islamic girls in burqas as “letterboxes”.
But it is too clean to get distracted by using personalities. Shortly after the 2017 election, I spoke at an occasion with a coalition government adviser who admitted that a planned method earlier than the 2010 election was to ramp up rules which include free faculties to distract attention from cuts someplace else. We all fell into the trap and spent too long fulminating over a policy that became out to be rather inconsequential.
So, permit’s start by using getting directly to the factor approximately the desired priorities for these authorities. The new top minister says he desires each parent to be assured an “extraordinary” education for their kids. What does that imply?
Presumably Johnson perspectives his personal luxury schooling at Eton as wonderful. I might dearly like to have the ability to tell the youngsters on my neighborhood housing estates that they may have access to the one’s centers and class sizes, but that isn’t going to appear by way of raising the minimum level of funding to £5,000 in keeping with the scholar.
Successive governments have disregarded the reality that we don’t simply recognize how lots cash could assure an amazing sufficient – not to mention outstanding – schooling for each child, remembering that many have very special wishes. Patching in paltry sums to plug gaps at a time while expenses are soaring is insufficient, and not likely to stop schools last early, dad and mom being requested to donate finances, and topics and teachers being axed.
Just as urgent is the trainer recruitment and retention crisis. Teachers are leaving in file numbers. And in keeping with Ofsted’s state-of-the-art research they don’t sense top-notch about their lives both, blaming workload, duty, behavior, funding cuts, traumatic parents and dramatic policy changes. The remaining three governments – step forward, specifically, Gove and Cummings – need to very own that. But correcting this deep-rooted malaise and occasional esteem is a herculean challenge.
Both Johnson and Williamson supply the impression of being intrigued by means of politics as a game, rather than a direction to vast social trade. Indeed, Williamson’s very appointment felt like an afterthought and obligatory praise for a person who helped the PM win his party’s leadership.
There is an argument that Johnson may have that feelgood component that now trumps coverage wonkery when it comes to prevailing elections, however, the repetitive use of words such as “optimism” and “energy” will only move to this point.