'Championing the rights of children'

Nicky Morgan: ‘My task is to listen to teachers and lighten their burden’

Garry Sun 07 Dec 2014 08:16

She is less combative than Michael Gove and wants to mend fences with teachers. What drives education secretary Nicky Morgan?

When Nicky Morgan was catapulted into the role of education secretary in July, replacing Michael Gove after his four extraordinary years in the job, it was the big shock of the summer reshuffle. David Cameron wanted someone to call a truce with the education establishment before the general election, and saw Morgan as a reassuring figure who would mend fences while staying entirely loyal to the essentials of her predecessor’s revolution.

But, if the prime minister believed Morgan would simply be a more emollient version of her predecessor – or as one of her close allies put it, “if they thought she would just be a Stepford minister” – he had misunderstood the 41-year-old MP for Loughborough. Over the past few months, Morgan, who is also the minister for women, has, according to government insiders, become increasingly uneasy and unhappy about being passed off as a compliant female minister without her own agenda. Today she strikes back, showing she has her own strong mind and can play rough as well as smooth.

Since July, Morgan has found she is not alone in trying to run the education brief. “Nicky is having a very difficult time of it,” said one senior Tory at the heart of policymaking. “Gove is on her case and can’t let go. He is constantly on at No 10 to make sure she doesn’t water down his reform or damage his legacy.” Another government source recalled one meeting at the Department for Education: “The atmosphere was creepy and really tense. You could just hear the Gove line being parrotted back all the time.”

As we sit down to talk in the House of Commons, Morgan makes it abundantly clear that she backs the former education secretary’s central mission – the expansion of the academy programme and the introduction of free schools. They are, after all, two of the Conservative party’s proudest achievements in public sector reform. She would not be in the job if she didn’t. But she is willing to say that mistakes were made.

Read more... (The Guardian - 6 December)