Who would Boris Johnson pick as education secretary?

Former education minister Liz Truss and ex-select committee chair Graham Stuart are among names being touted

Martin George

There is speculation about the identity of the next education secretary.

Speculation about who the next prime minister will pick as their education secretary is mounting.

At summer Westminster drinks receptions, two assumptions appear to be widely spread among education leaders, policymakers, advisers and commentators: that Boris Johnson will be the next leader of the Tory Party, and Damian Hinds will not be his pick for the Department for Education.

In the early stages of the leadership race, Mr Hinds backed Michael Gove, and since Mr Gove's elimination, he is supporting Jeremy Hunt.


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The theory in the Westminster edu-bubble is that a prime minister Johnson would have too many debts to repay to his supporters to keep someone who backed two of his rivals in the post.

And with school funding having taken such a prominent place in the race for Number 10, some believe that the DfE would be seen as adequate compensation for someone who failed to secure one of the great offices of state.

To some informed minds, that suggests that if Liz Truss misses out on 11 Downing Street, she will be handed the keys to Sanctuary Buildings instead.

She both backed Mr Johnson early in the contest and is a former DfE minister, and lists education as one of her three political interests on her Parliamentary website.

In other quarters, another minister with a track record in education is being talked up: Graham Stuart.

He served as chair of the Commons Education Select Committee from 2010 to 2015, and in his current role as minister for investment, he is the Department for International Trade’s lead for education.

He is also a Mr Johnson backer and lists education among his political interests.

Another name that comes up in some Conservative education circles is school standards minister Nick Gibb.

The phonics champion has been the great survivor at the DfE, serving the department from 2010 to 2012, and again since Michael Gove’s demotion in 2014.

And his involvement in education stretches back further, having served as a shadow minister for education from 2005 to 2010.

But, like Mr Hinds, he supported Mr Gove’s leadership bid.

Other names sometimes mentioned, with greater or lesser degrees of seriousness, include Mr Gove himself, Boris Johnson’s brother Jo (a former DfE minister), current Commons Education Select Committee chair Robert Halfon, and health secretary Matt Hancock (a former skills minister).

Others suggest the DfE could be a first cabinet post for a young ambitious Johnson backer being groomed for higher office.

In truth, there are as many theories about the educational intentions of Mr Johnson as there are theorists, and perhaps those who are nearest to the truth are those who believe no decisions have been made.

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Martin George

Martin George

Martin George is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @geomr

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