Who is Gillian Keegan? 11 facts about the new education secretary

Rishi Sunak has been forming his first frontbench team

Rishi Sunak has been forming his first frontbench team

25 Oct 2022, 18:45

New prime minister Rishi Sunak has promoted Gillian Keegan to the role of education secretary, replacing Kit Malthouse.

Here’s what we know about her.

  1. Born in 1968, Keegan is 54 years old, which is older than the average for education secretaries, which is around 49. However, she is far from being the oldest – that was Keith Joseph, who was 63 when he was appointed.
  2. She is the fifth to serve in the role in four months, the sixth in 14 months and the tenth since the Conservatives came to power in 2010.
  3. Keegan is the MP for Chichester in West Sussex. She is the first politician from the county to serve in the role.
  4. The new education secretary is the first to have been first elected in 2017. Her predecessors Malthouse, James Cleverly and Michelle Donelan were all elected in 2015, while Nadhim Zahawi and Gavin Williamson were elected in 2010.
  5. Born in Leigh, Lancashire, Keegan went to primary school in Yorkshire and a comprehensive secondary school in Knowsley, Merseyside.
  6. She left school at 16, making her the first education secretary to have done so since Alan Johnson. She was an apprentice at Delco Electronics, a subsidiary of General Motors in Kirkby. She was sponsored to study a degree in business at Liverpool John Moores university, and went on to study a Sloan Fellowship master’s degree at London Business School.
  7. Keegan spent almost 30 years living and working abroad in the manufacturing, banking and IT industries, most recently as chief marketing officer for Travelport, a travel technology company.
  8. The MP told the Telegraph in 2017 that the activities of trade unions influenced her decision to become a Tory as a teenager. This might not bode well for her dealings with education unions, which are balloting for strike action. She said she saw unions were “all powerful and making it very unattractive for inward investment…I just knew that economic approach wasn’t going to work”.
  9. In 2019, she accused the government of “playing catch-up” on mental health services for children.
  10. She has also spoken about how special educational needs and disability funding is an issue “close to my heart” as her nephew has Down’s syndrome. She warned in 2020 that special schools in her constituency were oversubscribed and receiving more admission requests, adding they need “capital investment to expand”.
  11. During her time as skills minister she helped oversee the launch of the FE white paper and skills bill, the initial rollout of T Levels, and skills bootcamps.

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