Reshuffle continues as Boris Johnson makes statement on US, UK and Australia military partnership – live

While Gavin Williamson’s sacking took the limelight, a more seismic shift came last night when the schools minister Nick Gibb announced that his tenure was ending, to the surprise of many.

Gibb was first appointed to the role under Michael Gove in 2010 until he was replaced by David Laws in the coalition government in 2012 – but less than two years later Gibb was back at the DfE and remained there until now.

Nick Gibb

Congratulations to @nadhimzahawi who will do a superb job in building on the reforms of the last ten years. I am sad not to be continuing as Schools Minister. It has been a privilege to play a part in helping improve the life chances of the next generation.

September 15, 2021

While five education secretaries have come and gone in that period Gibb has been the fixed point in England’s school system, pushing for the use of phonics to teach literacy in primary schools and driving the Gove-era emphasis on testing and exams as well as a focus on more academic subjects in secondary schools.

Gibb had become a polarising figure, seen by some in the schools sector as an éminence grise with an outsized influence, especially under Williamson, but narrow-minded in ideological and pedagogical matters.

But among those who favoured more traditional teaching Gibb was seen as a champion of issues such as a “knowledge-rich curriculum”. Most recently he was behind the ongoing attempts to reform initial teaching training, which has been opposed by universities because they stand to lose autonomy in how they train their student teachers.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders and a former school head, said of Gibb:

His views on education divide opinion, but there is no doubt about his deep sense of commitment to improving the life chances of children or his sense of certainty in terms of policy.

He has perhaps been a little too certain about some of the government’s reforms, however, which do need revisiting.


The Sutton Trust, which campaigns for social mobility through education, has published an analysis of the educational backgrounds of the new cabinet and it shows a minor move away from the traditional independent school/Oxbridge pipeline. Here are the key figures.

  • 60% of the cabinet attended independent schools, a slight decrease from Boris Johnson’s previous cabinet (65%). This compares to 29% among MPs in the House of Commons.
  • There is a small increase in the proportion of cabinet ministers educated at comprehensives, from 27% in 2020, to 33% today.
  • Of the 30 ministers attending Johnson’s latest cabinet, almost half (46%) went to Oxbridge. This compares with 27% of all Conservative MPs and 18% of Labour MPs.
  • A quarter of cabinet ministers were educated at both independent schools and Oxbridge.

% of cabinet ministers who are privately educated

% of cabinet ministers who are privately educated Photograph: Sutton Trust

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