Education secretary to adopt skills brief

The post held by Anne Milton, who resigned last week over the election of Boris Johnson, will not be filled by the new government

New education secretary Gavin Williamson will also take on the skills ministerial brief, the government has announced.

The previous incumbent, Anne Milton, resigned last week over the election of Boris Johnson and will not be replaced.

Williamson will now direct post-16 further education policy, alongside his other responsibilities in the ministry.

The post of minister of state for apprenticeships and skills – which was also responsible for further education, sixth form colleges and adult education – has had multiple names in government and five incumbents since the 2010 general election.

We have gone from having a minister for skills last week to not having one now, unlike universities and schools who have kept theirs – Paul Cottrell, University and College Union

A Department for Education (DfE) spokesperson said: “All ministerial appointments have now been made and the education secretary will be leading on the skills brief, with support from the new children’s minister Kemi Badenoch.

“As the prime minister has said, further education and skills will be a priority for this government – and the education secretary taking the lead for this vital work is a reflection of that commitment.”

David Hughes, chief executive at the Association of Colleges (AoC), welcomed the news. “Since receiving the keys to number 10 last week, Boris Johnson has talked consistently about the importance of further education and skills, with DfE confirming today that the secretary of state will have direct responsibility for the brief.

“We are taking this as a very positive sign that the words of support will soon be followed by new and significant investment in policy, relationships and funding of colleges.

“The task ahead for us at AoC and for colleges is to keep up the #LoveOurColleges campaigning to ensure that FE and skills do not get lost in wider government business, and that the new leadership continues to see colleges as central to delivering for our economy and communities.”

The University and College Union (UCU), however, decried the announcement. UCU acting general secretary Paul Cottrell said: “We have gone from having a minister for skills last week to not having one now, unlike universities and schools who have kept theirs.

“We shall have to wait and see if commitments from Boris Johnson in the leadership campaign translate into proper funding. We do not believe losing the dedicated skills minister is a positive step for further education or suggests that the sector is held in high regard by the new administration.”

Got a news story for UB? Contact James Higgins on 0117 300 5526

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