Opinion: Nicky Morgan, the new Secretary of State for Education


200px-Question_exclamation.svgNicky Morgan grew up in Surrey and went to Surbiton High School, before reading Law at Oxford University. She then worked as a solicitor in Corporate Law. Her political career was not an immediate success, as she failed to win as a Conservative Candidate for Loughborough at the 2005 General Election. However, she did succeed in winning the seat in 2010. She has been PPS to David Willetts in his position as the Universities and Science Minster, Assistant Whip, Economic Secretary to the Treasury and Minister for Women and Equalities.

Now, in July 2014, Morgan has been appointed by the Prime Minister to become Secretary of State for Education. She is still Minister for Women, a role she has held since April. So, is Nicky Morgan qualified for the her new job?

Well, her experience of education is of a very nice, privileged private school for girls, followed by a Law degree at Oxford University. Her political career contains no role in education prior to the reshuffle, just a comment on how paying tuition fees for a University course and thereby getting into debt is justifiable and fair. She has taken 8 years to pay off her own education debts, which is considerably less than most. Her direct experience of the state education system is exactly nil. Does she have the wisdom and imagination to provide state education with what it needs?

Could Nicky Morgan be an education secretary who;

1) is not interested in creating a legacy in history through making yet more reforms.

2) values the teaching profession. In the last 20 years, David Blunkett was the only Secretary of State who came close, by making sensible, structured improvements to the profession.

3) is honest about grade inflation and exam standards. Much of the past 20 years has been about “engineering” a politically motivated system that would deliver improving grades. This was done through grade inflation, but year on year improvements became so absurd that it was finally abandoned. Nicky Morgan needs to create an exam system that is fair and has the pupils’ interests at heart, not one that meets political needs.

4)  Looks at what is working and leaves it alone.

5)  Looks at what isn’t working and seeks advise about how to make improvements, and then quietly makes those improvements.

6)  Does not over-estimate average intelligence. There have been exaggerated expectations about what average pupils could achieve, and grade inflation was as much about realising these expectations as anything else.

7)  Works with educationalists, teachers, unions and parents to evolve education into something more meaningful to pupils without headline innovations like free schools and academies.

8) Creates a system which is supportive of teachers and pupils in such a way that they can feel good about what they do and where they are what really matters? This will require re-examining Ofsted’s remit and stopping the climate of fear and intimidation that the current head of Ofsted has created.

To meet the above criteria would require someone who is not interested in political ambition and their own ego, but sees their role as being one of an intelligent human being who quietly, unobtrusively and through discipline promotes the evolution of our current education system into one that works for everyone. This would allow pupils to realise their potential by taking ownership of their education and maximising the resources given to them.

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Andrew Bateson is 57 years old and initially trained as a Geologist. He has been a secondary school teacher for 22 years teaching Chemistry and Science to 11 to 18 year olds. Previously he worked in the Ceramic industry in research and development and then management. He has experience of both the independent and state sectors, teaching in single sex and mixed sex schools. As a Union Rep., he followed educational policy closely throughout his teaching career. He has retired from teaching to continue working with OOL and to retrain as a Psychotherapist.

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