The further education sector has reacted with disappointment to the departure of Justine Greening. The MP for Putney stepped down from government yesterday, after reportedly being offered the job of work and pensions secretary. It was later announced that Damian Hinds would be taking over as education secretary.
Association of Colleges (AoC) chief executive David Hughes said he was sorry to see Ms Greening leave. "She did a lot of good work to build collaboration with AoC and colleges, she had a strong and personal commitment to social mobility and she was one of a few in government with direct experience of learning in a college,” he said.
“Her legacy will include a commitment within the Department for Education to greater investment in technical and professional education and stronger support for colleges to help them deliver great learning opportunities across the country,” added Mr Hughes, who stressed that he was looking forward to building a relationship with her successor, Mr Hinds.
"We know from his time at the Department for Work and Pensions that he is someone we can work with and who will share our strong commitment to social justice. He faces many challenges across schools and universities policy, as well as many opportunities which colleges offer to his department in delivering the education and skills our country needs.”
Stephen Evans, chief executive of the Learning and Work Institute, also took to Twitter to say he was sad at the departure of Justine Greening.
Very sorry to see @JustineGreening leave DfE & Govt. Clear she has a driving commitment to social mobility.— Stephen Evans (@Stephen_EvansUK) January 8, 2018
And Bedford College principal Ian Pryce even penned lyrics about her departure, following on from his previous song urging Ms Greening to improve FE funding, which became an online success.
Mr Hinds is a former grammar school pupil who is also a former member of the Commons Education Select Committee. In 2012 he chaired an all-party parliamentary group which published a report on social mobility. Seven Key Truths about Social Mobility argued that the point of greatest leverage for social mobility was what happened between the ages of 0 and 3, mainly at home, but “you can also break the cycle through education”.
Apprenticehips 'must be a priority'
It said that the most important controllable factor was the quality of teaching, and described the policy challenge as “focus first on quality of teachers and teaching”.
Mark Dawe, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said he was pleased the new education secretary seemed committed to social mobility.
“Apprenticeships should be a key element of this, but there is a danger at the moment the implementation of this excellent policy will lead to a backwards step,” said Mr Dawe, adding that this was “easily retrieved but requires action now”. “The secretary of state arrives in the light of some encouraging news on UK productivity levels but to make any increase sustainable, the government must continue to invest in skills training and technical education.”
Following her resignation, Ms Greening said social mobility mattered more to her than her ministerial career. “I'll continue to do everything I can to create a country that has equality of opportunity for young people and I’ll keep working hard as MP for Putney,” she said.