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Response to the Appointment of Gavin Williamson as Secretary of State for Education
July 25, 2019
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Rt Hon Gavin Williamson CBE MP, has been appointed Secretary of State for Education in Boris Johnson’s first evening in office as Prime Minister.

Gavin was previously Secretary of State for Defence from 2 November 2017 to 1 May 2019. He was Chief Whip (Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury) from 14 July 2016 to 2 November 2017. 

Gavin was known for his innovative ideas while in his previous Defence Secretary role, which also ended with a little bit of controversy. Reports in the mainstream media were widely shared whilst he was in the Defence Secretary’s post, such as innovative cost-saving ideas like arming tractors with guns, disguising missile defense systems as drinks lorries and re-purposing ferries as landing craft.

Williams was removed from post as the Defence Secretary over the Huawei 5G leak scandal by previous Prime Minister Theresa May, where he was accused of leaking information from a National Security Council meeting. Williamson strenuously denied any involvement in the Huawei leak and no formal charges were brought against him. 

So what is the Sector Response to the news about Gavin Williamson taking up the Secretary of State post?

Steve Frampton, President of the Association of Colleges (Aoc) said:

“The job of Secretary of State for Education is one of the best, and most important, in government. There is the potential to change the lives of millions of people, transform our communities, and support the long-term success of business and our economy.

Gavin Williamson has stepped into the role at one of the most crucial times in modern history. The House of Common’s own Education Select Committee this week released a report that warns that the education system risks “reaching breaking point” unless government acts. And so we urge him to act and act quickly.

Report after report, expert after expert have been clear, colleges have been over-looked and under-funded, having faced a decade of unprecedented cuts. The new Secretary of State has the potential to shape a legacy in which the forgotten 50% are remembered and supported, businesses are equipped with the skilled staff they are crying out for, and our communities and people across the country can thrive. That legacy can only happen if he prioritises further education, including with real, meaningful and sustainable investment in colleges. We look forward to working with the new Secretary of State to make this happen.”

Tom Bewick, Chief Executive of the Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB) comments:

“It’s great to see a state educated politician take over the helm at the Department for Education. Gavin Williamson will be judged on the basis of one overriding objective: and that is his ability to secure more investment in further education and skills. He needs to make the case to the Treasury that you can’t secure a world-class workforce on the cheap. Improving skills, productivity and social mobility is a shared challenge. Top of his priority list should be to sort out the financial sustainability of the Apprenticeship Levy. He should resist the calls from business to turn the Levy into a general skills fund; and instead, ensure the money is targeted at below Level 6 apprenticeships. This should include a focus on more 16-24 year olds being able to benefit from the learning and earning route to success, without them having to rack up huge graduate debts. 

“From FAB’s perspective, we’d like to see the new ministerial team become a genuine champion of the awarding and assessment industry. We export more qualifications and expertise than any other country on the planet. Attacking the value of vocational qualifications therefore is not a sensible way of building parity of esteem. It only undermines the hard work of many learners and teachers. We look forward to discussing his predecessor’s various qualifications reviews; as well as playing our part in constructively helping the government to deliver on its promises of turning the nation into a leading system of technical and vocational education.”


  1. The new Education Secretary really must look at providing more funding for those with Special Educational Needs. Schools, Colleges and Local Authorities are struggling. The introduction of the EHCP (Education and Health Care Plan) was a great idea, but the resources to support it did not follow. With more and more young people with SEN attending college and staying in education longer, we need more funding to support them. The outcomes for these young people are far greater now than they were before the SEND reforms of 2014, but LA’s and colleges are struggling to resource the extra support this developing cohort need! There is a limit to how far you can stretch resources and Government and the new Education Secretary really need to take a close look at the growing needs of SEN and those that are supporting them!!

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