Nadhim Zahawi appointed education secretary

Former vaccines minister named as head of Department for Education after Gavin Williamson sacked in Cabinet shake-up

Amy Gibbons

Nadhim Zahawi named as education secretary

Privately educated Nadhim Zahawi has been named as the new education secretary after Gavin Williamson was removed from the role earlier today.

The former vaccines minister has been appointed as head of the Department for Education this afternoon.

Mr Zahawi was born in Baghdad to Kurdish parents who came to the UK when he was 9, fleeing Saddam Hussein's regime.


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He was educated at King's College School in West London and University College London, where he studied chemical engineering.

He previously served as children and families minister in the DfE between January 2018 and July 2019.

During this time, he said he was "concerned" at the lack of awareness about guidance on how schools should deal with incidents of peer-on-peer sexual abuse.

In a letter to the Labour MP Emma Hardy, revealed by Tes in April 2019, he admitted that the DfE had to do "further work" to "raise awareness" about the advice.

Nadhim Zahawi 'must help schools get the funding they need'

Commenting on the appointment, Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, said: "The NEU congratulates the new secretary of state for education on being appointed to the most important position in the Cabinet.

"We hope that Nadhim Zahawi shows a passion and an interest in education and realises the power that valued education professionals have to transform the lives of young people."

She highlighted that the comprehensive spending review is "in a matter of weeks".

"The new secretary of state must be a strong advocate in government for schools and colleges to be given the resources and funding they need to support education recovery for all children and young people," she added.

"There can be no more important priority for the future of our nation. The money promised to schools to date is a small fraction of the amount judged to be needed by the government’s former education recovery tsar. This must be rectified in the spending review if we are to make sure that no child is left behind after the pandemic."

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, welcomed Mr Zahawi to the role.

He said: "The missteps that have occurred during Mr Williamson's tenure are well known and it would be ungracious to rehearse them again now. For our part, we have always sought to work with Mr Williamson constructively over the course of the pandemic and we thank him for his engagement with us."

He added: "The Department for Education may now be under new management but the same challenges remain. More ambition is needed on post-Covid education recovery, investment in schools and colleges, support for children with special educational needs, and closing the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers."

The government "must be open to considering the future shape of qualifications and the curriculum so that they best serve all young people and ensure the country has the right skills for the future".

His members also needed the new education secretary to show "a greater sense of strategy and support than has been the case in the past", Mr Barton said.

He added: "We look forward to working with him and taking the next step forward in an education system of which we are hugely proud."

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT school leaders' union, said the "crucial task of translating the government's rhetoric on education" now sat with Mr Zahawi.

He added that one of the "most pressing tasks" for the new education secretary, along with minimising disruption to schooling this winter, will be to ensure that the government "fulfils its promise to deliver a properly funded recovery package".

"With the comprehensive spending review only weeks away, there really is no time to waste," he said.

Commons Education Select Committee chair Robert Halfon called Mr Zahawi a "good and compassionate man".

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Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @tweetsbyames

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