The Evangelist vs the Pragmatist: two DfE ministers, two very different attitudes

The Tes reports that watching Justine Greening and Nick Gibb take utterly different approaches to the teaching profession resembles a good cop-bad cop double act. This is the tale of two education ministers – both in power at the same time, but both ploughing remarkably different furrows with remarkably different approaches and remarkably different philosophies.

Within the last fortnight, Greening and Gibb have made high-profile appearances at very different events. The nature of these functions and how they presented themselves tells us a lot about the weird, but parallel, spheres of influence they both occupy – and the support bases that follow them.

Let’s start with Gibb.  Although backed by just about anyone who is anyone in the new educational establishment, from De Souza herself to of the New School Network’s boss Toby Young, PTE’s people portray themselves as the outsiders taking on The Blob, Michael Gove’s name for education’s old, progressive, ruling classes. And that is very much how Gibb sees himself: the Evangelist battling the overwhelming forces of the disbelievers.

This, despite holding most of the levers of power, and having successfully forced through the biggest set of changes to curriculum and assessment – not forgetting the phonics check and the coming times tables test – in a generation.

Contrast this with Greening, who is going out of her way to work with many other members or the Old Blob including, perhaps importantly, the new Association of School and College Leaders general secretary Geoff Barton. She was even praised recently in a comment piece by Paul Whiteman, NAHT’s new boss.

This week she was the driving force behind a summit on flexible working in the teaching profession, which she co-hosted with Barton. This event was, according to reports, the very definition of “sensible”, and all about working up practical solutions to the recruitment crisis. 

It’s never pleasant having two bosses – especially when they give you divergent messages. “Good cop, bad cop” can apparently work when you’re fictional policemen interrogating a Hollywood baddie, but it might not be the best way to run a school system.

Read more The Evangelist vs the Pragmatist: two DfE ministers, two very different attitudes

Who are you backing? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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  1. Anonymous

    It must be good that we have Gibb, the self-proclaimed expert on everything educational, at the helm. Surely we can only benefit from a man who believes that whatever he wants to be true, must be, and has to be imposed on the whole system. Interesting to see today that he claims he has freed up schools from having to teach in Ofsted prescribed ways and also from the malign influence of LEA advisers. Classic Gibb. Create mythical monsters and then claim to have defeated them.

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