Schools will know by noon on Thursday if education secretary Nicky Morgan is to run for the leadership of the Conservative Party.
A ruling today means all potential party leaders must be nominated by the midday Thursday deadline, giving the education secretary days to work out if she has enough support among colleagues.
Uncertainty over Morgan’s likelihood of running has already led to speculation that key education policies, such as the national funding formula, could be sidelined and postponed.
Under party rules, Conservative MPs vote to whittle down a field of leadership candidates until just two are left, and then the party’s wider membership gets a postal vote.
A final result will be declared on September 2 – in time for schools returning after the summer break.
Morgan can stay as education secretary if running for leadership
If running for leader, Morgan is under no obligation to stand down from her ministerial role.
In 1990, John Major continued serving as chancellor while running to be Margaret Thatcher’s successor; David Cameron served as shadow education secretary during his successful bid for the leadership.
The campaign would take a great deal of Morgan’s time, however and this, coupled with the timing of the election during significant reform in the education sector, has led to fears that key functions of the education secretary, such as the oversight of academies, could be delayed.
Advisors deny Morgan is running for leadership
Last week Morgan’s team insisted she was not currently in the running, but Schools Week understands Morgan has since been canvassing other MPs for support ahead of deciding whether or not to put herself forward.
The spokesperson told Schools Week on Friday that it was “way too soon” for her to think about her own leadership ambitions, adding that it was time to “reflect, build and move forward”.
Her office has not responded to the timeframe announced by the party which is shorter than many expected.