Former minister Robert Halfon elected as education select committee chair

Former minister Robert Halfon elected as education select committee chair

Robert Halfon, a former education minister and staunch critic of the prime minister, has been elected as chair of the House of Commons education committee.

Halfon beat opponents Nick Boles, Tim Loughton, Rehman Chishti, Stephen Metcalfe and Dan Poulter to the top job in a vote of MPs today.

Halfon got 261 votes, compared to 213 for Boles – but Halfon also got the most first preferences as well.

The MP for Harlow in Essex served as skills and apprenticeships minister for much of the past year until he was sacked by Theresa May following last month’s election.

According to his pitch for the job on the parliamentary website, Halfon’s priorities for schools include examining the new schools funding formula and “working for a fair allocation of available resources”. He also wants to look at improving standards, “particularly in literacy and numeracy”.

How the voting went

“As a former education minister, I bring recent experience of the policy and challenges the committee will face in the year ahead,” he wrote.

“But, to those who need reassurance, I am no establishment man. I will not be afraid to challenge ministers, leaders or the sector when needed.”

Speaking to Schools Week’s sister paper FE Week, Halfon, who was first elected in 2010, denied he was running as revenge for his sacking.

“I really have massive respect for my former boss, Justine Greening,” he said. “I’m doing it because I love education. I worked with Justine very closely. I think she’s a really good minister. She’s passionate about education.”

However Halfon has previously been critical of the schools sector.

He said in January, while skills minister, that schools were to blame for the skills deficit in England because of their fixation on “university, university, university”.

He also said good quality advice on apprenticeships and skills in schools was still “very rare”, adding Ofsted inspections could be “toughened” to ensure schools were doing better.

Then, in the same month, he suggested poor careers advice in schools was down to spending decisions by leaders.

“Wherever I go I meet apprentices and when I’m in a room with say 30 of them I will ask all of them every time ‘did you get careers advice about doing an apprenticeship?’ And the majority of the time they didn’t. Clearly there is something wrong,” he said.