My daughter enters a reception class at a state school in September. Her educational future is in my hands, that of her teacher, her school and Nicky Morgan, the new Education Secretary. I hope Ms Morgan realises what a grave responsibility and huge privilege this is. The educational future of thousands and thousands of children – who I know are just as important as my daughter – are in her hands.
I don’t know why Nicky Morgan got the job. Maybe she got it because she has two X chromosomes, maybe because she is genuinely talented and brilliant. It does not really matter now. All that matters is that she knows what an awesome task lies ahead of her.
She has a young son herself so she will know that every child has immense potential. She will know the life-changing impact education offers all children, and poor ones in particular.
Ms Morgan should know, even if until now she knew little of educational theory, how important primary school education is. That it is not, and should not be all about painting and Play-doh. This has its place. Creativity and imagination are important of course.
There is also a role, a critical role, however for reading, writing, times tables and a core knowledge curriculum. Primary school is where the rot sets in, where the gap between the privileged children and the less well off becomes a gulf.
Nicky Morgan attended the private, fee-paying Surbiton High School before studying jurisprudence at St Hugh’s College, Oxford. So she was spared a “comprehensive” education due to her parents’ wealth. Lucky her. I now hope she will be spending every waking hour aiming for a private school education for state school pupils, or thereabouts.
As a result of Ms Morgan’s excellent private education and her own hard work, she qualified as a solicitor and worked as a corporate lawyer specialising in mergers and acquisitions before taking on an in-house counsel role advising on corporate law matters. So again, up until now maybe she knows little about education, but she should be able to absorb huge amounts of information in a short time.
I don’t care what Nicky Morgan wears – she can wear a bin bag for all I care – but I do hope she will be dedicating every waking hour to her brief. In fact, I would quite like to see her appearance diminish a little over time – if I am honest – such will be her devotion to our nation’s children. Some dark rings under her eyes perhaps and a few grey hairs.
I expect she will already have read all of E.D. Hirsch Jr books since her appointment. In fact part of me hopes she has not slept at all.
But is it not just the knowledge she will need – it is the skill. Ah, yes that great debate in education – which are more important, skills or knowledge? I trust she knows former teacher and author Daisy Christodoulou’s opinion on that by know – namely that they are not mutually exclusive but that many skills, including basic literacy skills, are dependent upon knowledge. The competence needed to negotiate and handle the many, many vested interests that control education and resist reform will require all her lawyerly skill.
Ms Morgan was a mergers and acquisitions lawyer so she should have had plenty of experience of dealing with, unreasonable, recalcitrant, and difficult people. That experience will be crucial when it comes to the unions. The role she adopts now is an up at dawn siege to protect our children’s education and future. I wish her luck.