School is out at Department for Education with one minister left in post

·3 min read

The Department for Education has just one minister in the run-up to GCSE and A-level results after Michelle Donelan quit as education secretary after less than 36 hours in the role.

In her letter of resignation, prompted by the scandal over former deputy chief whip Chris Pincher, she said that she was “very worried about the prospect of no ministers in the Department as we approach results’ day”, and that the “impact on students is real”.

Baroness Barran is now the only remaining minister in the department.

Ms Donelan added that nonetheless she had pleaded with prime minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday to do the “right thing” for the country and resign, and that both the country and the Conservative Party were “more important than any one person”.

“In life we must always do what we believe is right,” she said in her letter to Mr Johnson.

“Above all I am here to serve the British public.

“I see no way that you can continue in post, but without a formal mechanism to remove you it seems that the only way that this is only possible is for those of us who remain in Cabinet to force your hand,” she said.

Ms Donelan said that Mr Johnson had put colleagues in an “impossible position” and that as someone who “values integrity above all else” she had no other choice but to leave post.

Ms Donelan also said that if her resignation nets her a £16,876.25 payout, as suggested by the website Guido Fawkes, she would donate this sum “in full to a local charity”.

Caroline Johnson, vice-chairwoman of the party and a member of the Commons’ education select committee, has also left her post on Thursday morning, writing to Mr Johnson that the “cumulative effect of your errors of judgement and domestic actions have squandered the goodwill of our great party”.

Downing Street turmoil
Michelle Donelan during her brief tenure as education secretary (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

On Thursday morning, Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi urged Mr Johnson to resign in the wake of the Pincher scandal which has caused multiple resignations across government.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “As we speak there is only one Education Minister left in the Department for Education.

“Obviously, this cannot possibly go on, and we would expect that a workable government will be put in place following Boris Johnson’s announcement that he will step down in the autumn.”

He said that his members would be awaiting details, adding that there were “some very important decisions to be made in education”, such as the teacher pay award for 2022/23.

“We have been expecting the recommendation of the pay body and the Secretary of State’s response before the end of the summer term,” he said.

“There is then exam results due out in August which will require clear communications from government because grading standards will be different from the past two years and indeed different from 2019 too.

“There is also a very serious problem with teacher shortages that is facing schools and colleges right now, and severe funding pressures exacerbated by rising energy costs. All this needs sorting out.”

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