Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Morgan stands by Gove reforms

New Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said working together with teachers, heads and governors is crucial to getting the best results for children

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has vowed to "be nice to teachers", but warned she would not row back on predecessor Michael Gove's controversial reforms.

Mr Gove, who was demoted to chief whip in the reshuffle, frequently clashed with the teaching unions as he forced through his radical shake-up of the education system.

Mrs Morgan said working together with teachers, heads and governors is crucial to getting the best results for children.

But she insisted she would not turn her back on the changes championed by Mr Gove, who oversaw the creation of new free schools and academies in an effort to provide greater choice and competition.

"There will certainly be no soft-pedalling on reforms," she told The Sunday Times.

"I think Michael has been a fantastic education secretary and the reforms he has put in place, particularly freeing schools from Whitehall interference, have been phenomenally successful."

She rejected calls to perform a U-turn on rules to punish parents who take their children out of class during term time, saying the policy "sends a firm signal".

Mrs Morgan also backed the policy of allowing lessons to be taught by people without formal teaching qualifications: "If (heads) say that the best person to teach economics is somebody who has worked in a bank in the City of London, then fine."

She also supported Mr Gove's policy of allowing new free schools to be opened where there is demand, even if there is no shortage of school places in the area.

"If there is parental demand for free schools, that's where they should go," she said.

"It is very much about what parents want, whether they want a free school, whether they want to send their children to academies or grammar schools."

She said the Department for Education would not stand in the way of grammar schools that want to expand.

Mrs Morgan, who went to the private Surbiton High School, has a six-year-old son , Alex, who attends a state school. Asked if he would go to a state secondary school, she said: "We've got very good state secondary schools, so yes, but he's a long way off secondary school."

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said: "It is now confirmed. The architect of David Cameron's damaging schools policy is gone, but there will be no change of course.

"Nicky Morgan has confirmed we should expect more of the same: funding for new schools diverted away from areas of need as ideology trumps pragmatism; entry requirements to teaching amongst the lowest in the developed world and more unqualified teachers in the classroom; and a refusal to address the dangerous lack of oversight in our school system that has led to the closure of failing free schools and the chaos we have seen in Birmingham schools."

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