A carer, but no bleeding heart

MALCOLM Wicks's first memory of education is kicking his teacher. It's a tale his mother tells, and he admits a recollection of screaming and kicking on his first school day. It is a habit he quickly dropped, but he acknowledges that there are still plenty of others putting the boot into the profession.

Mr Wicks, MP for Croydon North, is the new chair of the education select committee. He was on Labour's front bench for social security in Opposition and has served on the social security select committee. He admits he has a lot to learn about the education world, but those who know him expect him to master his brief quickly.

Many of the issues he has dealt with have a direct bearing on education. He said: "One third of children are born into families dependent on benefit. The younger you are the more likely you are to suffer from poverty. That has to have an effect on education and on teachers who have to deal with the consequences."

A social services insider said: "Malcolm does really care about the effects of poverty. But he is no bleeding heart. He knows his stuff, has strong views and will do what he can to change the system."

One of his proudest parliamentary moments was seeing his Private Member's Bill, which gave carers more rights and help from local authorities, become law. Mr Wicks is vice-president of the Carers National Association and a former director of the Family Policy Studies Centre. He has two sons and a daughter in their twenties and his wife Margaret is a scientist.

He follows Margaret Hodge, now an education minister, who enlivened the select committee and used it as a springboard for often controversial ideas. Mr Wicks will also want to make his mark, but in his own way.

Frances Rafferty

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