Right-wing libertarian to lead schools policy scrutiny

18th June 2010 at 01:00
Conservative MP Graham Stuart elected chair of education select committee in secret ballot

Right-wing Conservative MP Graham Stuart was elected last week to chair a highly influential backbench committee that holds to account the Government's work in education.

Mr Stuart secured his seat as chair of the education committee by a majority of 23 following a secret ballot of MPs - the first time select committee chairs have been decided in this way.

One of his first acts as the new chair, the MP for Beverley and Holderness said, will be to focus on the coalition Government's controversial policies to devolve more freedom to schools while opening up the supply side to parents, businesses and charities.

Mr Stuart, who is known for his outspoken views on home education and civil liberties, said the role of the education select committee was to hold the Government to account, adding that he would have no qualms upholding that tradition.

"I am a firm believer in the committee's work," Mr Stuart said. "My predecessor (Barry Sheerman) showed an independence of mind and even called his own party's secretary of state (Ed Balls) a bully.

"There are plenty of areas to look at given the agenda of the Government - free schools, Building Schools for the Future funding, issues around academies and the issues that arise from having greater freedoms such as selection by the back door and also the general pros and cons of selection."

First elected as an MP in 2005, Mr Stuart increased his majority by more than 10,000 votes in this year's general election, taking 47 per cent of the vote.

Born in Carlisle in 1962, he attended Glenalmond College, one of Scotland's leading boarding schools which now commands fees of more than #163;25,000 a year.

Mr Stuart went on to study philosophy and then law at Selwyn College, Cambridge, between 1982 and 1985. During that time he set up his own business, CSL Publishing, where he remains a non-executive chair.

Mr Stuart has been a prominent member of the select committee over the past three years and also chairs a cross-party group about home education.

He said he was aware of the difficulties that face education, particularly during a time in which schools' budgets will be squeezed.

"Working out what policy changes need to be made to improve educational outcomes is extremely difficult," Mr Stuart said. "It's not obvious and there is no magic wand you can wave. It is all about the people and how you attract, maintain and invest in higher-quality people in teaching and school leadership.

"This means you will probably have to focus more on showing those people who are not up to the job that they might find more productive work elsewhere."

He added: "It is about how we deliver the improvements in education that our young people deserve and which our country expects."

From student entrepreneur to the Commons

Graham Stuart, pictured visiting a school, was born in Carlisle in 1962

He attended top Scottish boarding school Glenalmond College

In 1982, he went to Selwyn College, Cambridge, to study philosophy and law

In the same year, he founded CSL Publishing

He was elected MP for Beverley and Holderness in 2005

In 2010, he was re-elected with a 12,000 majority

He was elected chair of the education committee this month.

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