Justine Greening MP is the new Secretary of State for Education. She is one of the women who have been mentored by Theresa May, as a female entering politics. The question is: what can we learn about Justine Greening and what she might do with education during her tenure? After the trauma to education caused by Gove and the insipid nothingness of Nicky Morgan, it is in every teachers’ best interest to know who they are dealing with.
Ms Greening was born in Rotherham 47 years ago. She went to the local comprehensive school before studying economics at Southampton University and then attaining an MBA at the London Business School. She worked as a Finance Manager at Centrica PLC. It seems she has a pedigree in Finance, more suited to the Chancellery than education, maybe. However, her commitment to an education service might be seen in her role as school governor with her local primary school.
Her CV in politics does suggest that she has qualifications suited more to economics – he was Economic Secretary to the Treasury and then Secretary of State for Transport before taking on Secretary of State for International Development. Does anyone else worry that Ms Greening may see the financial pragmatics of education as more important than shaping an ideology, a vision, of what outstanding education should be?
Her voting record on education supports a judgement that Ms Greening sees learning through the prism of economics. She voted for greater autonomy of schools and for the academies. She wants each school to be financially independent, competing for the business of the local parents. She voted for the raising of the cap on university fees to £9000 and for ending the financial support for some 16-19 year olds forced to stay in training or further education.
What about what her voting of values and ethics in wider society? She voted for a stricter asylum system, refused to vote on mass surveillance activities and voted against measures to reduce tax avoidance. Ms Greening has consistently voted against increasing the tax burden of those earning over £150,000 and voted against a banker’s bonus tax, though she voted for a higher taxation on the banks themselves. She has voted against the increase in benefits for people unable to work through disability and also voted for a reduction in welfare benefits spending.
So, what does this suggest that teachers in education are dealing with? They are dealing with the school bursar or school manager – which is always the least joyful conversation in a teacher’s day. They are dealing with someone who will put value for money in front of exceptional educational practice. Teachers are dealing with someone who wholeheartedly signs up to market economics – the best education system will emerge because parents will choose the best school and the other schools will go out of business.
Does this market economics work in education? It might if there is an excess of school places, if there is a safety system put in place for those schools “going out of business.” It requires Ms Greening to consider that young, vulnerable people who find learning difficult need protection from the desperate environment of a “failing school.” But, I am a super liberal woolly teacher of English – so reread this article with that lens in place and make up your own mind!