New schools minister turns on charm in tribute to profession

12th June 2009 at 01:00
He lauds teamwork on show at the TES Schools Awards and says teaching runs in his family

New schools minister Vernon Coaker did his utmost to endear himself to a room of 400 teachers this week.

Speaking at the TES Schools Awards, the MP for Gedling said that teaching is something that runs in his family. He a former deputy head, his wife is a teacher and his daughter is training to be one.

Mr Coaker was one of many new faces in the Department for Children, Schools and Families as Gordon Brown pressed on with a Cabinet reshuffle despite multiple resignations.

Although Schools Secretary Ed Balls remains at the helm of the DCSF, there have been wholesale changes at ministerial level, with children's minister Delyth Morgan the only one left in place.

Speaking on his first day in his new role, Mr Coaker said: "The Children's Plan is committed to making sure that the right professionals are in the right jobs and working with the right schools to support and nurture the talent of every single child.

"I want to pay tribute to our teachers and to make sure that together we make this vision a reality. Great teachers are always remembered by their pupils, but equally we should pay tribute to the other unsung heroes, such as the school support staff, the caretakers and the dinner staff."

The Conservatives said Mr Coaker should "clear up" his position on academies after it emerged that he is a member of the Socialist Education Association and the NUT, both of which would like to see an end to the semi-independent schools.

Shadow schools secretary Michael Gove said: "Parents should be worried if the new schools minister supports a group that is against academies despite their success in raising standards for the poorest children.

He added: "Sadly, Ed Balls is leading our schools in the opposite direction with more micro-management from the centre and declining standards."

In response, Mr Coaker said parents should be more worried about the Tories' planned cuts in schools.

He added: "As for Michael Gove's nonsensical claims, the fact is that academies are helping us to raise standards, break the historic link between poverty and attainment and transforming the life chances of young people across the country.

"I joined the SEA many years ago when I was a teacher because I passionately believe in breaking the link between poverty and educational attainment. I'm also still a member of the NUT, but it won't surprise people to know that I don't agree with all of its policies either."

Awards picture special, pages 26-27.

OLD CAPTAIN, NEW CREW

IN

- Vernon Coaker: Minster of State for Schools and Learners

- Dawn Primarolo: Minister of State for Children, Young People and Families

- Kevin Brennan: Minister of State (jointly with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills)

- Iain Wright: junior minister for 14-19 reform and apprenticeships

- Diana Johnson: junior minister for schools

OUT

- Jim Knight: Minister of State at Department of Work and Pensions

- Sarah McCarthy-Fry: junior minister at Department for Communities and Local Government

- Beverley Hughes: stepped down from government

STAYING PUT

- Ed Balls: Schools Secretary

- Delyth Morgan: junior minister for children and families.

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