ASCL comment on appointment of new Education Secretary

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, comments on the appointment of Michelle Donelan as Secretary of State for Education.
While we extend a warm welcome to Michelle Donelan as Education Secretary and wish her well in her new role, we have to express our concern at the high turnover rate of Education Secretaries. This is the sixth incumbent in eight years and the third during Boris Johnson’s premiership. Education is a vital public service and a complex sector which requires deep understanding, knowledge and continuity. This constant chopping and changing does not provide stable leadership.

“Nadhim Zahawi has been in the post for less than a year during which time he has introduced a schools white paper which proposes very significant attainment targets and structural changes to the education system with no real idea of how either of these objectives will be achieved. A large section of the accompanying Schools Bill has had to be withdrawn because of criticism that it represented an unacceptable centralisation of power.

“Michelle Donelan will therefore face a considerable challenge in taking forward these proposals. Furthermore, the actual crisis facing schools and colleges is the fact that there is a very serious problem of teacher shortages which is making it difficult for them to recruit the teachers they need. This comes after a decade of pay erosion which has seen the real value of salaries fall by a fifth. It is a crisis compounded by soaring energy costs which are putting intense strain on budgets that simply cannot withstand any more pressure. These are real and present dangers to the education system that will require urgent resolution