A bad week for education secretary Nicky Morgan ends with petition for her to go
It’s not been a good week for Nicky Morgan. Derision greeted her view that 47% of English 11 year-olds failing to reach the expected standard was a ‘good start’ to the Government’s new ‘rigorous tests’. Primary school parents faced with the nearly one-in-two chance of their child being labelled a failure at age 11 might consider boycotting these wretched tests next year.
More bad news reached Morgan when the Education Select Committee rejected her choice of Amanda Spielman as the next Ofsted chief. Morgan’s taken no notice, however, and is pressing ahead. Her action again raises the question of whether heads of supposedly independent non-ministerial departments should be in the gift of ministers.
The Education Select Committee didn’t stop there. Its first report heavily criticsed the state of careers education, information and guidance (CEG) in England’s schools. CEG’s demise, which began when funding for the Technical and Vocational Initiative ceased in 1997, was hastened when Michael Gove, who had a visceral hatred of careers advisors, became Education Secretary in 2010. Where there was once a national system of professional local authority careers advisers, there is now an ‘unruly and complex web of organisation, service providers and websites’, the Committee writes. This muddle, combined with numerous initiatives, have created a ‘confusing and costly mess’. The Committee says the Government ‘must’ appoint a single Minister in charge of CEG. It remains to be seen whether the new Prime Minister, whoever she is, takes any notice.
Finally, Morgan backed the wrong horse in the leadership contest. Her favoured candidate, Michael Gove, pulled off the extraordinary feat of receiving fewer votes (46) in the second round than he did in the first (48). Gove not only failed to attract any votes which had previously gone to Stephen Crabbe and Liam Fox but lost two of his previous supporters. Perhaps Tory MPs were deterred by the email from Nick Boles, Gove’s campaign manager, suggesting they vote tactically for Gove to keep Andrea Leadsom from running. Or maybe they took note of Ken Clarke’s remarks that Gove was ‘wild’ and if he were PM we’d ‘go to war with at least three counties at once’. Or maybe they’d read a Spectator article written before Johnson withdrew which threw doubt on Gove’s later claim that he’d only realised ‘this week’ that Boris was unfit to be PM. It said Gove had voiced qualms about Boris’s unsuitability to lead the country two-and-a-half years ago. Or maybe they found Gove’s shafting of Boris distasteful and, rather than being the action of a man who claims never to have wanted to be leader, was prompted by vanity and ambition.
Whether Morgan remains Education Secretary will be up to the new PM. In the meantime, a petition was started 20 hours ago for Morgan to resign following the KS2 Sats debacle. It’s here.
ADDENDUM 14 July 2016 The petition is now redundant. Theresa May has sacked Nicky Morgan. Former Education Secretary Michael Gove has been sacked as Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor. He'll have to give up the robes and the bling.