Headteachers have said that the loss of three ministers in the space of 24 hours looks more like “carelessness” than “misfortune” and will disrupt pupils’ education.
The Department for Education has now seen the resignation of children and families minister Will Quince and schools minister Robin Walker, following a move by former education secretary Nadhim Zahawi to the Treasury on Tuesday night.
Former schools minister Robin Walker said that he feared Boris Johnson had become a “distraction” from the Government delivering on its priorities.
Speaking to Times Radio, he said: “As someone who’s absolutely passionate about the job that I’ve been doing in education, supporting schools, delivering fairer funding, doing some of the things I came into politics to do, it’s obviously hugely sad to have to give up on that job, but I think it’s right not to continue to serve in a Government where you can’t support and speak out openly on behalf of the leadership.”
He said he was proud of the work the DfE had done supporting schools through the catch up and recovery programme, adding that “there is a really strong agenda there for the Government but every time I’ve been out on the radio or out in the media trying to speak about it, we’ve been distracted by issues relating to the leadership”.
Junior children’s minister Will Quince announced on Wednesday that he would be resigning after having “accepted and repeated” assurances that the Prime Minister had not known about allegations relating to former deputy chief whip Chris Pincher’s conduct on the Monday morning broadcast round, which “have now been found to be inaccurate”.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, to lose three ministers in the space of 24 hours looks more like carelessness than misfortune.
“This will obviously have a disruptive impact as new ministers learn the brief and sort out their priorities,” he added.
“Education is a vital and complex public service which requires deep knowledge, understanding and continuity in terms of political leadership.
“The sector is also at a critical point facing very severe teacher shortages, huge funding pressures, and long-term pay erosion which has been extremely damaging on recruitment and morale.
“It is a time which requires clear-sighted, strong and stable leadership. Instead there is chaos. Thank goodness schools and colleges are not run in the same way as the Government.”