England's Department for Education reshuffle: Our response

Our CEO responds to the latest DfE changes 
Thursday 11th August - Kevin Kibble 

A new Prime Minister brings a reshuffle of senior appointments who in turn re-shape their departments. The appointment of Justine Greening as education secretary for England has brought some interesting changes to the department, not necessarily in personnel but in roles and responsibilities. Nick Gibb, formerly the schools minister now has a different brief as minister for school standards and includes areas such the national funding formula and teacher training, recruitment and retention. He will also oversee the department’s links with Ofqual and the College of Teaching.

What is a most welcome development is the more defined role for Edward Timpson as minister for vulnerable children and families. Timpson continues to have responsibilities such as special needs and children’s social care, but there is also some more clearly defined responsibilities for pupil premium, PSHE, behaviour, attendance and exclusions. Alternative provision is also in this portfolio together with a brief to improve mental health, character and resilience in pupils. It is to be hoped that Mr Timpson can bring more focus to bear on the issues that exclude vulnerable children from the education system, a vital element in the Prime Minister’s vision of a fairer and more socially mobile society.

Nurture groups have been supporting the most vulnerable and disadvantaged students for over 50 years, including increasing their educational attainment (Cooper & Tiknaz, 2007), effectively reduced social exclusions (Ofsted, 2011; Ofsted, 2009; Estyn, 2007) improving attendance (Cooper, 2001) and crucially, have shown to improve social, emotional functioning and mental health over time (O’Connor and Colwell, 2002). With headline news stories showing that a worrying amount of our university students are suffering from mental health problems, early interventions that are known to be effective in the long run are crucial to supporting vulnerable children and families. In their new roles, we urge Edward Timpson and colleagues, to turn their attention to nurture groups as a way to support the children who are in need of it most.