The grass is always Greening?

Following rumours that former Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening, would be moved to the Department for Work and Pensions during this week’s cabinet reshuffle, the reality showed us that Greening was happy in her post, and quit instead of making the move. Now taking up the mantel is Damian Hinds. But what was the strategy here and how do Greening and Hinds differ? And of course, what could this new appointment mean for education in 2018?

Although she publicly backed Theresa May’s plans to create more grammar schools, Greening has a state school background herself, and was well known to be cautious of expansion; but ultimately the policy was scrapped. The former Secretary of State for Education spent her time in the role developing a positive relationship with teachers, and although many in the position have a hard time connecting to those in the profession, Greening proved a popular choice. She scrapped the policy to force SATs resits for 11-year-olds, halted the plan to force all schools in under performing areas to become part of an academy chain and championed compulsory sex and relationship education (SRE) for all schools. It was also under Greening that the creation of social mobility ‘opportunity areas’ was also created.

Similarly, Hinds has great existing credentials for taking up his new role. He is a former member of the Commons Education Select Committee, having also chaired the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility. His track record is interesting, and might hint at what’s to come in education policy this year. He has previously pushed for a lift on the cap that prevents the Catholic Church from opening free schools, voted in favour of schools having greater autonomy and academy school expansion. Similar to Greening, Hinds has supported initiatives for bringing industries and education closer together. He revealed a scheme in 2016 which encourages coaches to go into schools and help pupils with career guidance, writing CVs and preparing for interviews.

More recently, Nick Timothy has been accused of ruffling some feathers, with rumours claiming he said Greening “had to be sacked” for blocking policies. Others have speculated that the PM didn’t like Greening and so during the reshuffle she simply didn’t make the room for Greening to stay in her post.  Within the sector, however, many have made statements in support of her time during the role, with some sharing concern of what’s to come.

In a quote provided to the Guardian, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, Paul Whiteman said:

“Children need stability and their teachers can only provide that if the backdrop of education policy provides continuity for the profession.

New secretaries of state often feel that new announcements are obligatory. In 2018, where budgets are at breaking point and recruitment is still a massive challenge, education does not need more upheaval.”

Some may find the shakeup from the reshuffle unsettling, especially if they were supporters of Justine Greening, but it’s easy to become consumed with a “the grass is always greener” attitude. The former Secretary of State for Education has left behind both positive and negative changes, so to move forward we must to continue to work together as a sector and push Damian Hinds to deliver the policies we need.