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Wednesday, 20 August 2014

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Cumbrian teaching union's plea to Michael Gove replacement

Teaching union leaders have challenged the new education secretary to get a grip of the Cumbria’s schools and help solve its standards scandal.

Michael Gove photo
Michael Gove

The departure of Michael Gove, who had held the post for the past four years, during yesterday’s Cabinet reshuffle came as a shock to many but they were treating with caution his largely unknown replacement Nicky Morgan.

The change was welcomed by Alan Rutter, the Cumbrian divisional secretary for the NUT, who said he hoped the new minister would be more willing to have a conversation than her predecessor.

He said: “I would expect her to do everything in her power to raise standards – Gove wasn’t interested.”

Mr Rutter said that the former education secretary had single-mindedly pursued his favoured policies of selective schools and academies and he hoped his replacement would be allowed to take a different approach.

He said that members had been treated with both “disregard and arrogance” under Mr Gove’s rule and added: “It can’t be any worse than it is at the moment.”

Mr Rutter said that politicians brought an element of their personality into whatever role they were given but admitted that he did not know too much about the new education secretary and added: “I don’t know very much about her at all but we only hope that she is sympathetic.”

He said that senior union leaders had already been in contact with the department of education to arrange talks.

“We would hope that Nicky Morgan would actually start the conversation going,” he said. “Up to now we have had someone running the education department in such a way without being willing to have a conversation.”

Mr Gove had been repeatedly called to deal with a standards crisis dogging schools in Cumbria which has seen Carlisle’s two Richard Rose academies plunged into special measures, along with the Stainburn and Southfield secondaries in Workington.

Lee Sherriff, Labour’s Parliamentary candidate for Carlisle in next year’s General Election, said the switch had been a surprise.

And she said that having more women in the Cabinet was “too little too late”.

She added: “I think a lot of people are pretty cynical about it – this is probably the last reshuffle before the election and more women are being brought in.

“The proportion of Labour Cabinet members has always been higher, it’s been a natural thing that we’ve had a larger amount of female Cabinet members, it just feels artificial with the Conservatives.”

John Stevenson, the Conservative MP for Carlisle, said that since 2010 reshuffles had not happened too often which had created a degree of stability within the Coalition but every so often you needed to freshen things up. He added: “I think David Cameron has done this in quite a comprehensive and imaginative way.”

The MP said that, although there were now more women members, they had all been promoted due to their talent for the job and the Government should also reflect society. He added: “They are getting there on their own merits and that is how it should be.”

He said that the new line up was now in place to run the country until the next General Election and beyond.

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