The reappointment of Nick Gibb as schools minister had the air of inevitability to it.
Once it became clear that Theresa May’s reservoir of political patronage wouldn’t allow for the wholesale ministerial reshuffle she had been apparently planning, Mr Gibb’s continued tenure as minister of state for school standards at the Department for Education became more or less assured.
A figure shrouded in controversy, the long-serving Mr Gibb has many, many enemies in the world of education and very few friends. It’s not difficult to see why, given that his greatest hits include the phonics check, the Spag tests, the new, harder Sats and the proposed timestables (TT) check. In primary staffrooms up and down the country, his name is mud.
But his patch is, in fact, larger than the little list above. This is how it is set out on the DfE website:
- recruiting and retaining teachers and school leaders (including initial teacher training, qualifications and professional development)
- teaching school alliances
- links with the College of Teaching
- national funding formula for schools and schools revenue funding
- curriculum, assessment and qualifications
- school accountability (including links with Ofsted).
So not only will Mr Gibb have to deal with the fall-out from Sats Week 2017, the primary assessment consultation and the introduction of the TT tests, but he also has a load of other trouble being cooked up for his overflowing plate, not least of all the consequences of the new GCSEs and A-levels.
It is already fairly clear that this August’s results season has the makings of political hoohah. As such, it will presumably be Mr Gibb who proves the fall guy if (when?) this proverbial hits the fan – even though the mastermind of this particular set of reforms is currently lowering himself into a Brexit-sized vat of metaphorical manure over at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
To make matters worse, the teacher recruitment and retention crisis rumbles on without sign of letting up. And the department, including the minister for school standard himself, continues to do its ostrich impression by denying that it’s just that: a crisis.
And then there’s funding. While there maybe signs that Ms May’s new-look No 10 is planning to relax funding constraints in the future, schools are feeling the squeeze right now and are increasingly agitated about the proposed imposition of the new funding formula.
All of which begs the question: who in God’s name would really want Mr Gibb’s job? Apart from Mr Gibb, of course, who seemingly can’t get enough.
Ed Dorrell is head of content at Tes. He tweets @Ed_Dorrell.