If you’re wondering why our schools are in crisis, here’s Justine Greening’s new £800-a-day education chief

Schools Education Justine Greening DfE

On 23 October, the government announced a new appointment to the board of the Department for Education (DfE). But far from being a teaching professional, the person given the £800-a-day job is a businessman; meaning that business people now outweigh education experts on the board by 3 to 1.

Grocer-turned academic?

Richard Pennycook is the former CEO of The Co-operative Group. Announcing his appointment as a Lead non-Executive Board Member, Secretary of State for Education Justine Greening said:

The board plays a vital role in helping our department to work efficiently and strategically. Richard’s experience in driving change, creating a values-based culture and engaging with staff will be crucial in helping us to build our capability.

Pennycook will be paid £20,000 a year for 24 days of work; the equivalent of £833 a day. His co-board members include [pdf, p65]:

  • David Meller, earning £15,000 a year.
  • Marion Plant, £15,000.
  • Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith, £17,500.

But it’s Pennycook’s background which may raise a few eyebrows in the teaching profession.

It’s all about the money

He is an accountant by trade, and his previous roles include CEO of Welcome Break (the roadside leisure chain), Finance Director for supermarket giant Morrisons, pub chain JD Wetherspoon and retail group Laura Ashley, and non-Executive Directorships for the RAC and Thomas Cook.

Other DfE board members’ backgrounds are similar. For example, McGregor-Smith was previously CEO of public sector outsourcing giant Mitie, and held “senior financial posts” at Serco, another government outsourcing company, and Babcock, which is in the supply chain for the UK’s nuclear deterrent, Trident.

Read on...

And Meller’s CV includes leading his own firm, Meller Group, which turns over £36m a year [pdf, p6]. He also sits on the board of right-wing thinktank Policy Exchange.

But Meller also set up his own school academy chain, the Meller Educational Trust, in 2004. Since then, not only was he appointed to the DfE board, but he also now chairs the government’s National Apprenticeship Ambassadors Network.

The only education professional on the DfE board is Plant. Previously a midwife, she is now Chief Executive of the Midlands Academy Trust, as well as being the principal of two colleges.

The DfE: no clue about schools

The DfE said of Pennycook’s appointment:

Richard has first-hand experience in change management and staff engagement, and in creating a workplace driven by core values. This background makes Richard the ideal candidate to work with our leadership team on the Building Our Department Together programme, making our department an even better place to work.

The Building Our Department Together programme is designed to explore “better ways to deliver the department’s activity with schools”. But it was criticised by the National Education Union as being:

an admission that the department is completely detached from the schools it is now overseeing. It’s more of the same, appointing civil servants to oversee a detached and fragmenting school system.

And when business people and chairs of academy chains lead the DfE, not teaching professionals, the likelihood of it being less detached any time soon is slim.

Get Involved!

– Join The Canary, so we can keep holding the powerful to account.

Featured image via YouTube/Flickr

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed