Nicky Morgan: ‘My task is to listen to teachers and lighten their burden’

When Nicky Morgan was catapulted into the function of training secretary in July, changing Michael Gove after his four extraordinary years in the work, it was the massive shock of the summer reshuffle. David Cameron needed somebody to call a truce with the education establishment ahead of the basic election, and noticed Morgan as a reassuring figure who would mend fences while staying completely loyal to the essentials of her predecessor’s revolution.

But, if the prime minister believed Morgan would merely be a more emollient version of her predecessor – or as 1 of her near allies place it, “if they thought she would just be a Stepford minister” – he had misunderstood the 41-year-old MP for Loughborough. In excess of the previous few months, Morgan, who is also the minister for women, has, according to government insiders, turn into increasingly uneasy and unhappy about getting passed off as a compliant female minister with no her personal agenda. Today she strikes back, exhibiting she has her own strong thoughts and can play rough as nicely as smooth.

Considering that July, Morgan has found she is not alone in attempting to run the education quick. “Nicky is obtaining a extremely tough time of it,” mentioned one senior Tory at the heart of policymaking. “Gove is on her situation and can’t let go. He is consistently on at No 10 to make certain she does not water down his reform or injury his legacy.” Yet another government supply recalled one meeting at the Department for Schooling: “The environment was creepy and really tense. You could just hear the Gove line becoming parrotted back all the time.”

As we sit down to talk in the Home of Commons, Morgan helps make it abundantly clear that she backs the former education secretary’s central mission – the expansion of the academy programme and the introduction of cost-free colleges. They are, right after all, two of the Conservative party’s proudest achievements in public sector reform. She would not be in the occupation if she did not. But she is inclined to say that errors have been made.

Gove was often accused of not listening to teachers as he pushed via the reforms at breakneck speed. He attacked the parts of the training establishment as an immovable, leftwing “blob” ever-resistant to change. Morgan believes a various strategy is now required. “My task is about listening to what teachers are saying, and saying to them, ‘What can we do? Take some burdens away, give you far more freedoms.’”

As for describing educationists as “the blob” she says she does not know who initial aired the phrase (Gove employed it in the Daily Mail) – but she doesn’t approve. “I really don’t know who did and I really don’t know in what context. I’m guessing 1 or two individuals. I was active undertaking other factors at the time. But it does not help in terms of individuals utilizing that quote.”

She volunteers her own consider with unusual candour for a new cabinet minister. Does she believe, for instance, that the government’s positive message on schools reform was drowned out by needless rows with teachers and others? “Yes I do think [the good message got lost]. Often some of the language or the tone that was utilized, like ‘we’re going to consider men and women on’ and ‘we’re going to change items and challenge’ [was counter-productive] as I say, what gets misplaced are the people at the centre of the technique. And most especially the students. That’s who we’re performing it all for.”

In October she set up a consultation with teachers named “Workload Challenge” and Morgan has been surprised by the response. “We’ve had 43,000 responses in a month – just underneath ten% of the profession have taken time out of their hectic diaries to tell us what they consider.” She does not believe teachers are overworked but believes they could be paying also significantly time “planning, filling out kinds, worrying about Ofsted inspections”. Things could be created greater, and a lot more rewarding for them. “The non-educating things, let’s see what we can do to make that a bit lighter,” she says.

For Morgan, her job is much less about structures and more about what is taught in schools, including values, and what she calls “character education”.

“What I suggest is a concentrate on the character capabilities we all require to get on in life – resilience, grit, self-esteem, self-self-confidence.” She speaks reasonably fondly of “Michael” at occasions, but lavishes most praise for the duration of a 38-minute interview on Labour’s Andrew Adonis, who “really pushed the academies programme forward beneath the last government”. She thinks it ought to be left to teachers exactly where achievable to decide what literature texts they ought to teach at GCSE, inside of the confines of the nationwide curriculum, and seems to dislike prescriptive approaches which could avert them deciding on functions by non-British authors, this kind of as Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Ministers ought to be wary of dictating as well considerably. “There is a stage about feeling that people at the centre are telling us what to do and that’s what we really do not want to be as a government.”

Intriguingly for somebody in a celebration that has struck a sceptical tone on immigration, she agrees with considerably in a latest report that attributed the relative success of London schools to the higher amount of immigrant youngsters attending them. “There’s no doubt immigration can put stress on public companies, specially in spots like Slough, but I’m not a single of people people who feel that immigration is often a poor thing,” she says. “The evidence from London suggests that a rich ethnic mix can support to drive up requirements. It’s clear that numerous migrant families actually help their children and value the transforming electrical power of schooling.”

An additional priority is to boost personal, social, health and economic education in state schools. Sport in schools is crucial, she says, making clear she did not agree with the 2010 decision to axe funding for School Sport Partnerships. Significantly of the funding was restored after mass protests. “Let’s put it this way,” she says. “Experience has shown us that sport has a extremely crucial part to perform in colleges and we have located the funds to make certain that sports activities are capable to play that function.”

She chooses her phrases cautiously, and deliberately, throughout. Asked if it is true that her predecessor has continued to intervene on policy concerns, she says he has not confronted her directly: “Not with me. I mean in a sense I talk to him about items. I think schooling is probably 1 of these issues that once you have been involved with it you’re usually interested. One of the factors I have located is that every person has a see on training.”

And has he blocked any of her concepts? “Well there is always a discussion about factors in the party and with No ten and I’m not fully positive where suggestions get to and the place they come from. So I’m not aware that he has explained no – or that if he has, that it has been acted on.”

Cabinet ministers, nonetheless new to the occupation, know how to close down individuals kinds of questions. And she chose not to. Probably due to the fact she didn’t see why she must?

Leave a Reply