The new education secretary Justine Greening has revealed she wants the beefed-up Department for Education (DfE) to be “the best” in Westminster during the first meeting with her new colleagues today.
According to insiders, Greening was “cheerful and upbeat” when she met staff at the DfE’s Sanctuary Buildings shortly after lunch to set out her vision for the future, outlining her commitment to the equality agenda set out by new prime minister Theresa May just yesterday.
Greening, the former international development secretary, also spoke fondly of the teachers who helped shape her life.
Carolyn Robson, chief executive of the Rushey Mead Education Trust and vice chair of the Teaching Schools Council, who was at the meeting, said the new secretary of state had “seemed lively” and “committed to education and reducing inequality”.
It was also announced today that the DfE will take on responsibility for further education and higher education policy as part of a new, wider remit.
Robson said Greening had expressed a desire to see the expanded department excel at everything, “including procurement, impact, staff opportunities”, and even touched on the need for an “element of fun”.
But Robson also said she found it difficult to detect in Greening an educational vision aside from the “general vision of the prime minister”.
Another of those in attendance at the meeting was Sir David Carter, the national schools commissioner, who said Greening had given a “great introduction” to department staff and talked about the “teachers that made a difference in her life”.
— Sir David Carter (@Carter6D) July 14, 2016
The Putney MP’s appointment as education secretary was announced by the prime minister’s office this morning, but the schools community may have to wait until tomorrow to find out which MPs will take on the junior ministerial roles in the department.
Current ministers Lord Nash and Edward Timpson were seen entering the building shortly before today’s meeting, but it is not known if they actually attended.
Schools minister Nick Gibb, who has played a key role in reform of curriculum and assessment over the last few years, attended a pre-arranged meeting with school leaders earlier in the day, but is also awaiting news of his fate, along with colleague Sam Gyimah.
It is understood that a review of the junior ministerial roles will be carried out in the wake of a decision to break up the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
While the DfE takes on higher education and skills, a new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will be set up under the former communities secretary Greg Clark.
Depending on how the roles are distributed, a replacement for Nick Boles, who resigned as the cross-department skills minister yesterday, may also have to be found, while it is assumed the role of universities minister – currently held by Jo Johnson – or something similar will move across to the DfE.