Politics

Six facts about new schools minister Jonathan Gullis

Gullis has caused controversy, from calling teachers 'woke warriors' to rowdy behaviour in the Commons

Gullis has caused controversy, from calling teachers 'woke warriors' to rowdy behaviour in the Commons

Jonathan Gullis, a grammar school fan who has railed against “woke warrior teachers” and demanded the resignation of education union leaders, has been appointed as schools minister.

The MP for Stoke-on-Trent North was appointed to the Department for Education ministerial team last week, and his prospective involvement in decisions about education has divided opinion.

We round up his most controversial comments and contributions to offer a glimpse of his policy priorities.

1.Teachers who criticise Tories should be ‘sacked’

Speaking at a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party conference last year, Gullis suggested teachers who criticised the Tories should be sacked.

According to a recording obtained by The Independent, he attacked “woke left teachers” who, he said, were becoming “more and more apparent”. He said there should be “consequences” for teachers who “push [their] ideology in the classroom”.

He went on to claim that “for some reason, if a Labour party member wants to stand up in front of the classroom and say how bad and evil the Tories are, then the headteacher has to take some kind of sympathetic view to that”.

“It’s absolutely disgusting. We need to start sacking people who are pushing their political ideology.”

2. ‘Woke warrior teachers’ trying to ‘cancel Churchill’

In March this year Gullis claimed “woke warrior teachers” were pushing “extremist nonsense” on to pupils.

They wanted, he said, to “cancel important historical figures such as Sir Winston Churchill”, and were “aided and abetted” by unions such as the National Education Union (NEU).

He called on ministers to “hold politically motivated trade unions to account, preventing them from using teachers as a gateway to push their far-left agenda”. He has also separately called for NEU bosses Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney to resign.

The government responded by pointing to its guidance on political impartiality in schools.

3. But there have been warmer words from Gullis…

However, while he might have shown contempt for teachers with opposing political views, he has repeatedly praised the profession for its response to the Covid pandemic.

In January, he thanked teachers in his constituency for their “heroic efforts” in getting pupils tested on their first day back after Christmas.

He had previously praised and congratulated teachers for their “fantastic efforts” – and even before the pandemic described the “first-class work done by teachers and pastoral staff in the vast majority of schools”.

4. Teaching is like boxing for ‘Grumpy Gullis’

The former humanities teacher and head of year has admitted in interviews he was known as “Grumpy Gullis” during his teaching career because he never smiled, telling The TES in 2020 that his year group was “probably happy to see me go”.

He also described completing a day’s teaching as feeling like he’d done “10 rounds of boxing with Anthony Joshua”. During his first job, he was often in his head of department’s office “crying my eyes out over how bad my lesson was”.

5. Rowdy behaviour in the Commons

It is not only Gullis’s comments about teachers that have earned him a reputation in Parliament.

He has been berated by the speaker twice this year for his behaviour in the chamber. In February Sir Lindsay Hoyle, in an apparent quip about Gullis’s teaching background, told the MP he would “ring his mother” if he did not calm down.

He was reprimanded again last week for speaking loudly while Liz Truss, the new prime minister, was addressing MPs.

The speaker again referred to his profession. “I know as a former teacher he’ll want to show better behaviour than he’s showing at the moment.”

6. New grammar schools and MAT inspections

The MP’s contributions in Parliament offer a glimpse as to his priorities in education.

He was one of several Conservatives to demand Boris Johnson lift the ban on new grammar schools, which has been in place since 1998.

Gullis said education was “currently the very definition of a postcode lottery. Protecting existing grammar schools without creating new ones is reinforcing this.”

He also attempted to change the law to allow Ofsted to inspect the governing bodies of academy trusts.

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3 Comments

  1. Marie Coleman

    Jonathan Gullis is absolutely correct.
    Woke teachers must be stopped from indoctrinating pupils on woke theories.
    They are supposed to be there as educators not indoctrinators.
    Teach children them to think, to question, to read, to explore and respect their world and others but above all to be kind .

  2. M.T.Domain

    If you want to indoctrinate people, don’t be a teacher – become a rich MP instead. No marking, ignore report writing and parents’ evenings. You ‘ll get excellent pay and (ahem) expenses, subsidised quality food, holidays in abundance. And you can still sit in the House of Commons and shout at people just like when you were teaching!