School business leaders and heads have called for stability in the Department for Education’s ministerial team, as rumours begin to circulate that Justine Greening could be removed from her role as education secretary.
Leaders are concerned that 18 months of hard work and relationship-building with Greening could go to waste if she is replaced.
There are also concerns that important reforms recently set in motion by the minister – such as those to primary testing, qualified teacher status, flexible working and sex education – could be derailed if she is replaced in the coming weeks.
It has been reported that Greening is among several long-serving cabinet members who could be sacked or moved in a new year reshuffle making room for fresh talent in the cabinet.
Although the government remains at a stalemate with much of the schools community over key issues like funding, Greening is seen as a more sympathetic secretary of state than her predecessors Nicky Morgan and Michael Gove, and has been praised by unions for her willingness to listen.
In particular, Greening and her team have been praised for their work with with school business leaders, whose role in schools has grown in importance as more and more schools have become academies.
Stephen Morales, the chief executive of the Institute of School Business Leaders, said Greening had been a “force for good” who has been prepared to listen to the school business leadership community at a critical time.
“She’s been very considered, rather than the maverick style we have had in the past,” he said. “She also has a sensible relationship with the unions, which I think has been really positive.”
Morales warned of a repeat of recent years, with “half-baked reforms that never go back in the oven” as a result of reshuffles.
“A lot of energy goes in to supporting these initiatives and consulting on them and so forth, but we never see the fruit,” he added. “The danger is that a somebody will come in with their own agenda that’s very different to Justine’s, and things never reach their conclusion.”
Headteachers also want her to stay. Simon Kidwell, head of Hartford Manor Primary School, said it would be a “travesty” if Greening were “reshuffled for doing a competent job”.
“Justine Greening has been the most thoughtful and measured education secretary of recent times,” he tweeted.
Stephen Tierney, chair of the influential Heads Roundtable policy group and chief executive of the Blessed Edward Bamber Catholic Multi Academy Trust, also sounded his support.