The new Education Secretary will pursue Michael Gove’s reforming agenda, but attempt to improve the Tories’ image among parents and teachers, party sources have said.
One minister told The Independent: “Michael Gove was an epoch-making Secretary of State. There is no question of reversing his policies: the point is to preserve them with a little less controversy.”
In her first full day in the job, Nicky Morgan received detailed briefings from officials as she began working through a daunting in-tray.
Most immediately she will oversee the launch in September of teaching for the revised A-levels and GCSEs championed by Mr Gove, as well as the new national curriculum.
She will have to decide with whether to press ahead with the creation of more free schools and university technical colleges, both programmes which have divided opinion in the education word.
Mrs Morgan will oversee this month’s publication of a Government’s report into the alleged “Trojan horse” plot by hardline Islamist to infiltrate Birmingham schools.
A further piece of unfinished business inherited from Mr Gove is a commitment to bring in reform to the child protection system.
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Over the next few months Mrs Morgan will grapple with the huge budget pressures facing her department because of the growing numbers of pupils at primary schools.
And most challenging, she will have to decide how to respond to the Government’s bitter dispute with the National Union of Teachers over pay, pensions and workload.
NUT members walked out last week and are threatening fresh industrial action in the autumn.
Allies of Mrs Morgan played down expectations of a breakthrough, claiming that the union leadership is in the grip of Left-wing activists pursuing a political agenda.
But the new minister will certainly adopt a more emollient style in an attempt to take some of the heat out of the confrontation.
Mrs Morgan hinted at her new approach in a statement following her appointment.
She said: “I know that education can be the single greatest transformer of lives. It is also a crucial part of this Government's long-term plan.
“I look forward immensely to working alongside parents, teachers and schools to ensure we have world class schools and the skills that will get our young people great jobs.”