James Cleverly: 12 facts about the latest education secretary

What do we know about the third education secretary in two days?

What do we know about the third education secretary in two days?

7 Jul 2022, 12:43

Downing Street has announced that James Cleverly is the new education secretary, after Michelle Donelan stood down following just 35 hours in the job.

Here’s what we know about him…

  1. Born in 1969, Cleverly is 52 years old, which is older than the average for education secretaries, but he is a long way off being the oldest. Keith Joseph was 63.
  2. Cleverly is the MP for Braintree in Essex. He is the first education secretary or minister of education to hail from the county since Rab Butler.
  3. Like his predecessor, he was first elected in 2015. He has had a range of government roles, including as a cabinet minister without portfolio, as well as jobs at the Brexit department and Foreign Office. He was Conservative co-chair of his party from 2019 to 2020.
  4. He is the third education secretary to serve in two days, following the promotion of Nadhim Zahawi and Donelan’s resignation. He is the fourth education secretary this academic year, and the eighth to serve in 10 years.
  5. Born in Lewisham to a midwife and small business owner, Cleverly said seeing his parents’ hard work “showed him “the importance of supporting both the private and the public sector”.
  6. He served in the army after leaving school, making him the first education secretary with a military background since Ken Baker. But his career was cut short by injury and he studied for a degree in business instead. Cleverly worked in magazine and digital publishing.
  7. An often touchy subject, but as the role involves children so directly it will be mentioned at times: Cleverly has two children.
  8. Cleverley attended private Colfe’s School in London, and has previously tweeted his pride in the school’s work getting ethnic minority students into Oxbridge.
  9. He has defended sending his own children to private school, saying he’d “love to give everyone enough financial freedom” to make the same choice, and adding that he would not “play politics with the future life chances” of his children.
  10. The MP got into a spat with the National Education Union in late 2018 and early 2019, calling on them to take down their “school cuts” website. He challenged the claim that 91 per cent of schools face funding cuts and wrote to the UK Statistics Authority, who agreed the statistic was “misleading”. But the NEU stood by its figures, saying the funding crisis was “very real”.
  11. Cleverly said in 2007 he believed grammar schools “provide the best way for bright but poor children to get on in life”, adding: “Until a better way to aid social mobility comes along I will continue to support them.”
  12. He appears to not have spoken on FE or skills issues during his time in parliament.


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