Schools minister Nick Gibb survives another reshuffle

NEU leader predicts tension between Gibb's focus on 'knowledge-rich curriculum' and Williamson's drive to improve skills

Cabinet reshuffle: Nick Gibb has retained his role as schools minister

Nick Gibb is to continue in his role as schools minister following Boris Johnson's ministerial reshuffle, it has been confirmed.

The phonics campaigner, who is the longest-serving schools minister of recent years, has retained his post at the Department for Education alongside education secretary Gavin Williamson.

The former accountant was first appointed minister of state for schools by David Cameron in 2010, but was sacked two years later.


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He returned to the post in the 2014 reshuffle, when his former boss Michael Gove lost his job as education secretary, and has remained at Sanctuary Buildings ever since.

Mr Gibb is known for championing the phonics reading method and oversaw the coalition government’s overhaul of the national curriculum.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: "It is good to see some continuity at the DfE.

Tension at the Department for Education?

“We have a good rapport with Gavin Williamson and Nick Gibb. This will allow our current discussions on important issues like accountability, pupil wellbeing and funding to continue without any delay."

But Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, predicted increased "tension within the DfE", specifically between Mr WIlliamson and Mr Gibb, who she said were going in "different directions of travel" on education policy.

"I think Nick staying in the job is no news at all," she said. "He's Michael Gove's emissary in the DfE, and he's there to make sure that the Govian legacy endures.

"I think it does create a tension in the DfE – I know it does – because Gavin Williamson, I think, is really interested in skills; he's really interested in FE, and he understands the need for really well-functioning and well-resourced FE colleges, particularly, in the northern towns. And Gavin Williamson went to an FE college and knows how important FE colleges are.

"But I think that creates a real tension within the DfE because on the one hand you've got a secretary of state for education who's talking about skills and vocational education and training, and on the other hand you've got a schools minister who's talking about a knowledge-rich curriculum and timed exams.

"I don't think that's an easy relationship, and I've heard reports of tension within the DfE about those two different directions of travel. And I think that can only get worse.

"I do think that Gavin Williamson is going to have to be much more adept than [his predecessor as education secretary] Damian Hinds in dealing with that, if he wants to achieve what he wants to achieve at the DfE."

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