New education secretary Nadhim Zahawi has pledged to listen to teachers, invest in schools and work to beat Covid in an open letter to the sector tonight.
The former vaccines minister has taken over at Sanctuary Buildings, replacing Gavin Williamson in the government’s reshuffle.
In an open letter introducing himself to people working in education and care, he paid tribute to their role in the pandemic.
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Mr Zahawi, who was born in Iraq, also highlighted how teachers helped him to make the most of his opportunities when he arrived in the country with “poor English”.
Nadhim Zahawi promises to 'strengthen' schools
School leaders have said today that winning the trust of the sector is one of the main challenges facing the new education secretary, following 18 months of Covid disruption.
His introductory letter makes a series of pledges.
Mr Zahawi says: “I will listen to you and work with you to make sure we do right by children and learners. And, with you, I will also listen to children, families, young people and adult learners so that we can spread opportunity far and wide.
“With your help, we are going to invest in and keep strengthening our nurseries and schools, the foundation stone of everyone’s opportunities in life.”
He adds: “With your help, we are going to transform the lives of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged, including those with special educational needs and disabilities and in care, and ensure that those who have lost the most from the pandemic can recover and flourish, and that prosperity benefits all.
“It is a mission I am proud to set out on; and one I know will not succeed unless we can work together. Together, we will beat Covid, while building back better and fairer.
He also talks about the impact that the country’s education system had on him as a child.
He said: “I know, profoundly and at first hand, how important your work is. When I first came to the UK from Iraq as a child, my English was poor, and I hid in the back of classrooms to escape the gaze of teachers.
“I might have become a forgotten child, with opportunities closed off.
“But my teachers never gave up on me. They challenged me to do better, and supported me along the way, so that I was able to make the best of the opportunities in front of me. I owe them a debt of gratitude; and I owe other children my unfailing effort to provide the same chances that I had to grow, and to flourish.”