Gavin Williamson on schools: 10 facts you need to know

Funding changes, troops recruiting from schools and more cadet units? What might we expect from the new education secretary.

John Roberts

Gavin Williamson, the new education secretary wants more cadet units in schools.

Gavin Williamson has become the country's fifth education secretary in the space of five years.

Just hours into his time at the helm at the Department for Education, he has yet to spell out his priorities. But there are plenty of clues about how he might view schools from the earlier career and life of the man that Boris Johnson has chosen to run education.

Here Tes sums up the key facts on everything from the forces going into schools to recruit, to physics teachers, RE and school staff suspensions:

1. School funding

He  wants fairer school funding and has campaigned for it since becoming an MP in 2010.

As MP for South Staffordshire his constituency is part of one of the worst funded education authority areas which make up the F40 funding group. In 2015 he presented a petition signed by more than 1,700 people calling for a fairer funding formula for schools.  He welcomed the government's commitment to reform the funding formula in 2017, and described the changes as "monumental".

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2. Armed forces recruiting in schools?

As defence secretary Mr Williamson told MPs how effective it could be for the armed forces to recruit from schools in their community.

He recalled how the Green Howards used to recruit from his school in Scarborough to "sending out the message of what an Army career could deliver."  

He also wants more cadet units in schools. Last year he told the House he wanted to increase the number of placements within school cadet services from 48,000 to 60,000, 

3. Turning former troops into teachers

In his last cabinet post Mr Williamson supported the scheme to turn former troops into teacher.  He told MPs that the bursary scheme offering up to £40,000 for them to train as teachers was a great opportunity.

He added: "Our armed forces often have some amazing technical expertise that they will be able to bring straight to schools to benefit future generations."

4. He is married to a former teacher

Teachers might take some comfort from knowing that Mr Williamson has first hand insight into what life is like in the profession. His wife Joanne is a former primary school teacher.  The couple have two children.

5. He attended state schools.

The new education secretary also has first hand knowledge of state schools as he was educated at three of them in his home town of Scarborough.

Mr Williamson attended East Ayton Primary, Raincliffe School, a state comprehensive, and Scarborough Sixth Form College before attending Bradford University.

He is only the second education secretary to be educated at a comprehensive following Justine Greening.

6. Physics teachers

He wants more graduates to become physics teachers.

In one of his first questions about education after becoming an MP Mr Williamson asked for a debate "about how we can encourage more of our best graduates to go into the teaching of physics?" 

7. Concerns over school staff suspensions

He has also raised concerns about “unjust and open ended” suspensions of school staff.

In a question to the then schools minister David Laws in 2014 he asked "what provision was in place for a member of school staff to contest an unjust or open-ended suspension?"

He also asked the Minister what guidance the DfE gives to local authorities over staff suspensions.

8. Religious education

The new education secretary has raised the question of how many pupils are studying RE in the past.

He asked former education secretary Michael Gove if he would regularly review the number of schools offering GCSE religious education and also the humanities element of the EBacc which had just been introduced at the time.

9. He has a local education authority background

Councils have seen their role in the education system diminish over the course of successive education secretaries this decade. 

The new man in charge at Sanctuary Buildings has been a supporter of the government's academy programme but he does also have insight into the work of local authorities.

He served as a North Yorkshire County Councillor  from 2001 to 2005 and was part of its scrutiny committee responsible for education. He was also given the role as the county's Young People's Champion in 2003 as part of a connecting youth culture project.

10. He has worked as a school governor

Mr Williamson also had direct involvement with the education sector as a school governor.

His other work in the voluntary sector includes working as a charitable trustee at a Citizen's Advice Bureau. 



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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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