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Whiteman: Three ‘Day-One’ priorities for the new Secretary of State for Education

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders' union NAHT said: “We welcome Gavin Williamson to the post of Secretary of State for Education, the most important job in the Cabinet.

“Now that the government and the DfE are under new management, new ideas and new priorities may well be on the agenda, but what we need now, instead of anything new, is immediate solutions to well-known and as yet unsolved problems.

“Whatever happens, it is critical that domestic policy doesn’t get squeezed out by Brexit in the way that we’ve seen over the past three years. That would be a huge mistake and a disservice to millions of children and young people.”

NAHT believes the priorities are very clear:

An immediate multi-billion-pound emergency investment in schools and colleges, plus a long-term commitment to education funding. By our calculations, £3billion of new money from the Treasury is needed right away to prevent any more of the damaging cuts to staffing, facilities and subjects that have been made. A long-term approach to funding, as we have seen in the NHS, needs to be taken so that schools and colleges can do their important work without the fear that the money will start to run out again.

A 5 per cent pay increase for all staff. The new secretary of state inherits a recruitment and retention strategy that has been welcomed by many in the sector, including us. However, the recent pay award of 2.75 per cent was a missed opportunity to begin to solve the staffing crisis. We have consistently called for a 5 per cent increase to pay to make a career in education a competitive choice in the context of the wider labour market in England. Crucially, this increase must be fully funded and not drawn from existing school budgets, which are already at breaking point.

Clear backing for all schools regarding diversity and equality. Learning about equality and diversity is not optional. Every school has a duty to eliminate discrimination. When it comes to talking to pupils about the different kinds of families and relationships they may encounter in their lives, it’s a question of ‘when’ and not ‘if’. School staff discharging their duty have an absolute right to feel confident and safe. Pupils should never have to walk past noisy and aggressive protests on their way to school.

Mr Whiteman concluded by saying: “Of course, there are many other matters to attend to in a sector as complex as education and NAHT will continue to campaign positively and work constructively with the government. We wish Damian Hinds well and look forward to building fresh relationships in the Department for Education and Downing Street in the months ahead, providing challenge and support from our position as school leaders.”

Press and Media contacts:

Steven George
NAHT Head of Press and Media
01444 472886
07970 907730

Rose Tremlett 
Senior Press Officer 
07545 354363

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