Who is Justine Greening and what has she done as Education Secretary?

Industry leaders speak favourably of the education minister, who has been re-appointed despite perceived differences in opinion to the Prime Minister

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The Independent Online

Justine Greening has been re-appointed as Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities, following another cabinet reshuffle.

Despite winning back her Putney constituency seat with a much reduced majority vote of 1,554 down from 10,180, education industry leaders appear to be singing Ms Greening's praises as a sensible choice for education.

In the run up to the general election, some had speculated that Ms Greening – herself known to be unenthusiastic about grammar schools – might be replaced by someone whose views were more in line with the Prime Minister’s.

The fact she has kept her role, however, has  been viewed by many as a further sign that Theresa May’s much-loved grammar school expansion plans could be dead and buried.

Who is Justine Greening?

The daughter of steel workers from Rotherham, Ms Greening was educated at a state comprehensive school.

She became MP for Putney, Roehampton and Southfields in 2005, when she regained a traditionally Tory seat from a Labour stronghold, and was appointed shadow Treasury minister.

The former prime minister David Cameron moved her to become Shadow Minister for Communities and Local Government in 2009.

She entered the Cabinet in 2011 after being appointed as Secretary of State for Transport before being reshuffled to Secretary of State for International Development until last year. 

Before taking over as Education Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities from Nicky Morgan, Ms Greening made a public announcement that she was in a same-sex relationship – making her one of very few openly LGBT members in the Cabinet.

Tweeting just two days after the EU referendum vote, she said: "Today's a good day to say I'm in a happy same sex relationship, I campaigned for Stronger In but sometimes you're better off out".

What has she achieved in her first year as Education Secretary?

Following her appointment in July 2016, Ms Greening moved quickly to scrap a number of policies, including forced SATs re-sits for 11 year-olds and the controversial plan to force all schools in under-performing areas to become part of an academy chain.

While she initially followed suit in praising Ms May’s grammar school plans, later interviews with the Secretary of State revealed her personal difference in opinion.

Ms Greening was praised for seeing compulsory sex and relationships education pushed through for all schools, and is also known to have a good relationship with teaching unions – despite being heckled over the grammar schools pledge at the Association of School and College Leaders conference in March. 

Sex education to be made compulsory in all schools in England

Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said he welcomed her reappointment.

“In the last few months she has shown a willingness to engage with the profession on important issues, such as primary assessment and PSHE, paving the way for crucial changes in policy,” he said. 

“NAHT has worked well with the minister on the current consultation on primary assessment, and we look forward to continuing that to drive through the positive changes this contains. 

“The biggest challenge for the minister will be school funding and she will need to argue vigorously for the needs of schools with her cabinet colleagues,” he added.

What can we expect from her now?

Since the Tories lost their majority in the election vote, it remains unclear which education policies will be put forward – if any – in the coming weeks and months. 

Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme, Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs and a prominent supporter of grammar schools, said the party would have to “trim down our policies carefully to what we think Parliament will support”.

Another source close to Downing Street was reported to have admitted the controversial grammar schools plans were “dead” thanks to Ms May’s lost majority.

Others have speculated that the department will have no choice but to reassess school spending, following increasing pressure from school leaders and a series of budgeting blunders.

Teaching unions on Friday warned that if the Government decides to press ahead with cuts to school spending – calculated at a real-terms loss of 7 per cent per pupil – campaign efforts would “intensify” – hinting that strike action could be on the horizon.

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