James Cleverly appointed education secretary

The MP for Braintree has been appointed to lead the Department for Education – but it is unclear for how long

James Cleverly has been appointed secretary of state for education, replacing Michelle Donelan, who resigned this morning [7 July].

Cleverley was – until midday on 7 July – minister for Europe and North America. Donelan quit the role of education secretary after 36 hours, having replaced the newly promoted Nadhim Zahawi as Boris Johnson reshuffled his cabinet in the wake of several high-profile resignations.

It is unclear whether Boris Johnson will remain as prime minister for days, weeks or even months. Given the uncertainty surrounding his leader, it is unclear how long the MP for Braintree will last in the education post either.

“As someone whose grandfather was a teacher and whose children are currently in the education system,” said Cleverley. “I am incredibly passionate about education and proud to be appointed secretary of state.

“From childcare and exams results, to our Schools White Paper, T Levels and the rest of our revolutionary skills agenda, we have a huge amount of work to do and I am looking forward to getting on with the job. That means ensuring children, young people and their families continue to be supported – they have my full commitment.

“I look forward to engaging with our brilliant nurseries, social workers, schools, colleges, universities and all the staff working across these sectors to realise people’s potential – whatever their backgrounds or wherever they come from.”

In a letter announcing her resignation, Donelan wrote, “without a formal mechanism to remove” Boris Johnson from Number 10, mass cabinet resignations were the only way to “force [the prime minister’s] hand”.

Donelan said she “remain[s] very worried about the prospect of no ministers in the Department for Education as we approach results day” but concluded, after she “pleaded” with the prime minister to resign, that she had to quit.

Zahawi, education secretary for a little over nine months, moved into number 11 Downing Street on 5 July, taking up the position of chancellor of the Exchequer. He called for Boris Johnson to resign on 7 July.

Donelan, who had been higher and further education minister for over two years and attended cabinet, succeeded her former boss in leading the Department for Education (DfE). There have been seven education secretaries since the Tory party entered government in 2010.

But Donelan, the 38-year-old MP for Chippenham, was confronted by a nearly empty office this morning.

On the morning of 6 July, Will Quince – minister for children and families – and Robin Walker – minister for school standards – walked, citing the prime minister’s handling of the Chris Pincher affair. It means the new education secretary oversees a department with three ministerial vacancies. Both DfE parliamentary private secretaries announced their resignations at noon. By the mid-afternoon, Alex Burghart, the skills minister, resigned.

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