Who is Gillian Keegan? 11 facts about the new education secretary

Rishi Sunak has been forming his first frontbench team

Rishi Sunak has been forming his first frontbench team

25 Oct 2022, 18:27

New prime minister Rishi Sunak has promoted Gillian Keegan to the role of education secretary, replacing Kit Malthouse.

Here’s what we know about her.

  1. Born in 1968, Keegan is 54 years old, which is older than the average for education secretaries, which is around 49. However, she is far from being the oldest – that was Keith Joseph, who was 63 when he was appointed.
  2. She is the fifth to serve in the role in four months, the sixth in 14 months and the tenth since the Conservatives came to power in 2010.
  3. Keegan is the MP for Chichester in West Sussex. She is the first politician from the county to serve in the role.
  4. The new education secretary is the first to have been first elected in 2017. Her predecessors Malthouse, James Cleverly and Michelle Donelan were all elected in 2015, while Nadhim Zahawi and Gavin Williamson were elected in 2010.
  5. Born in Leigh, Lancashire, Keegan went to primary school in Yorkshire and a comprehensive secondary school in Knowsley, Merseyside.
  6. She left school at 16, making her the first education secretary to have done so since Alan Johnson. She was an apprentice at Delco Electronics, a subsidiary of General Motors in Kirkby. She was sponsored to study a degree in business at Liverpool John Moores university, and went on to study a Sloan Fellowship master’s degree at London Business School.
  7. Keegan spent almost 30 years living and working abroad in the manufacturing, banking and IT industries, most recently as chief marketing officer for Travelport, a travel technology company.
  8. The MP told the Telegraph in 2017 that the activities of trade unions influenced her decision to become a Tory as a teenager. This might not bode well for her dealings with education unions, which are balloting for strike action. She said she saw unions were “all powerful and making it very unattractive for inward investment…I just knew that economic approach wasn’t going to work”.
  9. In 2018, Keegan praised the government’s national funding formula but raised concerns the “positive impact of the increased funding will not be felt in the classroom, simply because operating costs in the form of salaries, pensions and apprenticeship levies, to name but a few elements, have increased”.
  10. In 2019, she accused the government of “playing catch-up” on mental health services for children. She said schools have a “vital role” in offering support and “spotting the signs when people need help”.
  11. She has also spoken about how special educational needs and disability funding is an issue “close to my heart” as her nephew has Down’s syndrome. She warned in 2020 that special schools in her constituency were oversubscribed and receiving more admission requests, adding they need “capital investment to expand”.

More from this theme


Robert Halfon resigns as skills minister

Former education committee chair will also stand down as an MP at the election

Billy Camden

Ark stands by chair Sir Paul Marshall over social media activity

The Conservative donor has been accused of liking and sharing extremist posts

Freddie Whittaker

Phillipson invokes zeal of Gove reforms in Labour schools vision

Former minister brought 'energy and drive and determination' that is required again, says shadow education secretary

Samantha Booth

Government ‘not governing’ as schools policies in limbo

Schools Week analysis finds at least 21 policies promised for this year have yet to materialise

Samantha Booth

Hinds: ‘I was wrong’ on teacher golden handcuffs

Schools minister also reveals changes to the early career framework and more details on non-grad teaching apprenticeship

Freddie Whittaker

Damian Hinds returns to DfE as schools minister

Appointment follows resignation of schools minister Nick Gibb

Freddie Whittaker

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. This article is far too kind to the new Education Secretary, as it entirely neglects to mention that whilst education minister she voted against extending free school meals over the school holidays, an issue that will be of great interest to many teachers.

    • Danny Thenboy

      Waste of space. Negotiation between employees and employers requires sitting down and discussing offers and demands… She is too out of her depth to date to take this on, scared to talk to teachers and anyone who stayed on to sixth form, all to aware that she went to school in the worst performing educational borough in the country. Promoted to a post for which she is not qualified or has any relevant experience, that’s why she’s about the tenth education minister in the space of two years. She’ll probably get a knighthood.

      • Education is Education and life long learning , what on earth are they doing ? these Students have never been in an environment of exams ,the self marking during covid of the public schools is questionable for the exams taken and now be told they are irrelevant is beyond disgraceful – we should be building their confidents and it should be the foundation of what they do – not their insecurity – they have gone through enough they have pick themselves up dusted themselves off and sadly they have been sincerely let down