Will Gibb survive this time?

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

A cabinet reshuffle is taking place, and speculation is rife that the gaffe-prone Education Secretary of State, Gavin Williamson, is due for the chop.  And chopped he has been No 10 has confirmed.

Of more interest to me is what happens to his No. 2, Nick Gibb, the School Standards Minister whose remit covers schools.  Gibb has survived many a reshuffle and has been No 2 in the DfE for a long time.  Maybe it will be No 1 this time, or perhaps the chop instead; the clever money is on the latter.

Gibb, you'll recall, signs all those letters to students saying that the curriculum's not for turning whenever someone suggests that  focus on climate change would be a good thing.  He is a polarising figure amongst Conservatives.  He has been described by the architect of the national curriculum (and the dangerous dogs act), Lord Baker, as an Edwardian figure in a digital age.  This is because of his insistence on the value of a knowledge-rich curriculum.  Back in February he wrote a piece for ConservativeHome in which he said:

"The past 12 months have galvanised my belief in what makes a great school: an ambitious, knowledge-rich curriculum, taught by well trained teachers in a disciplined environment with high expectations and led by inspiring head teachers who create a caring ethos where conscientiousness dominates and success is rewarded and celebrated."

He added: “We must strongly resist the calls from those who talk about ripping up our curriculum to make it more ‘relevant’ or to make it solely about preparing pupils for work.”  And not just "work" but the future as well, hence the unwillingness to shift ground on those who'd like a greater focus on how climate change will play out and what people can do about it.

The key argument for a knowledge-rich curriculum is that is is a levelling up (to borrow a popular term) one as it provides a cultural background that many homes do not.  There is something in this, of course.  It follows that Gibb is against what so-called progressives like: generic skills such as creativity, team working, problem solving, etc.

But there are Conservatives who insist that the fundamental purpose of education should be to prepare young people for work; hence the divisions and the risk of a goodbye to Gibb.

Exciting times, but squeaky bums this afternoon in Sanctuary Buildings.


Thursday morning postscript: Gibb has gone, and not, by the sounds of it, of his own volition.  So, a cleansing of the stables at the DfE.  Too soon to know what this will mean for environmental education, but it will probably mean something.  You'll be able to see the new team here once all the changes have been made.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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