Education Secretary, Justine Greening, recently made her first appearance in front of the Education Select Committee, chaired by one of her former junior ministers, Rob Halfon. Beyond the value of this meeting of minds to policy nerds like myself, it gave us a chance to know Greenings’ mind, and her thoughts of how she feels education is faring on her watch. Quotes are taken directly from the transcript released following the event.
What did we learn?
The Department for Education has a ‘driving mission’:
As Greening set out her aim that, “social mobility, or whatever we call it, equality of opportunity, [is] the driving mission of the Department for Education”.
There is a broad set of goals across the education landscape to achieve this:
“Crucial to bending up the arc of opportunity for children at schools are great teachers and investing in the teaching profession, alongside the reforms we have made to curriculum and, of course, the changes we have made to the broader school system on academies and preschools but then going on to look at education post-16”
The Careers & Enterprise Company is doing a ‘very strong’ job:
“…over its first two years of existence in making sure that enterprise advisers are in so many schools. They are working systematically to make sure that we have cornerstone employers who are really focused on our schools in opportunity areas. We are interested to talk to them about what the next step is in relation to the kinds of ideas behind the careers passport.’
On GCSE reforms, Greening has heard from teachers that, as opposed to the previous notion that they were “jumping through hoops to get children through GCSEs”:
– “…the level of problem solving they now have to get their students to do is much more challenging but those young people are coming through with GCSEs in maths and English, truly understanding the concepts that they are being examined on.”
On Regional Schools Commissioners:
“I think there is a strong process there but it is important that we take smarter decisions in relation to how multi-academy trusts are able to take over schools when they are being asked to rebroker them.”
N.B. There’s still no further clarity on what is meant by “Coasting schools”
The selection process of opportunity areas seems unclear:
“The opportunity areas selection was driven by two things. Principally the work of the Social Mobility Commission, looking at what they called cold spots where education outcomes were poor but also career and job outcomes afterwards were poor. We took our cue from them but then I also wanted to have very different communities. Some are coastal towns; some are more urban areas like Derby or Oldham; others are rural areas”
The Grammar Schools issues is (currently) parked:
“There is very clear law in place in relation to the ban on new grammars remaining and the judgment in law is whether the annexe is sufficiently far away and different effectively to be a new school, or whether it is a true expansion of an existing school”
The “protection” of schools funding remains for the next couple of years. A point which attracts some criticism as this protection does not take in to account inflation.
And finally, Progress 8 is here to stay:
The DfE “do not have any plans to change Progress 8 at the moment”