Nicky Morgan, the new UK Secretary of State for Education, has wasted little time in cleaning house, letting go three of predecessor Michael Gove’s policy advisers.
The sweeping changes have some concerned that Morgan is not as committed to education reforms as she previously had stated.
Henry Cook, Beth Armstrong, and Jamie Martin have all resigned from their roles as policy advisor for the position of education secretary. Each will receive three to six months’ pay according to how long they served. Replacements have yet to be found, writes Christopher Hope for The Daily Telegraph.
At the same time, Morgan appointed Luke Tryl, an activist for gay rights and head of education at Stonewall, a leading gay rights organization in the UK, as her special adviser. This is an especially surprising move as Morgan had previously voted against same sex marriage.
While at Stonewall, Tryl spent the majority of time dealing with homophobia in schools, a topic he is expected to continue to focus on in his new role.
“Homophobic bullying is almost endemic in our secondary schools; that children in primary schools, children as young as five are using phrases like ‘that’s so gay’. There’s still a huge amount more to do.” Tryl stated earlier this month.
In an open letter to the new education secretary, headmaster of Newcastle upon Tyne Royal Grammar School Bernard Trafford asks Morgan what is to become of the many reforms Gove had planned for the education system in the UK.
In particular, Gove had stated, “We’re giving schools and teachers more autonomy to be creative including more freedom for heads.” Trafford claims the words of the previous secretary to be false in practice. While some restrictions had been removed, the majority of reforms actually allowed even stricter control by local authorities, which he says, “acted as a brake on progress”.
Trafford goes on to ask about Morgan’s plans to identify underperforming schools and how she will help. While he did agree that stepping in earlier is helpful, he disagrees with how this took place, much of which, he says, took place with an underlying political agenda in the forefront.
Trafford ends his letter imploring Morgan to listen to what UK teachers want and making them a part of the reform process.
“I very much hope that you, Ms Morgan, will encourage that trend and avoid imposing still more centralised change and pressure from Ofsted that combine to enforce unimaginative conformity. Will you instead seek consensus, trust professionals, get round the table with them, listen and plan a future together? If you do, you’ll be amazed by the creative and cooperative energy that you will unlock.”
In terms of carrying out Gove’s reforms, Morgan said:
“Let me be absolutely clear that I share with [Gove] total commitment to creating an education system that enables young people, regardless of their background, to unlock every ounce of their potential.
“I believe he will be remembered as one of the great reforming secretaries of state for education.”