Education Secretary: what are they responsible for?


The Education Secretary (or more formally known as the Secretary of State for Education) is responsible for the work of the Department for Education (DfE). 

UK Parliament explains, the title ‘Secretary of State’ is typically held by Cabinet Ministers in charge of government departments. 

While most departments are run by a Secretary of State there can be some exceptions, for example, the Chancellor of the Exchequer heads HM Treasury.

The office holder works alongside the other Education ministers. 

The corresponding shadow minister is the Shadow Secretary of State for Education, and the work of the Secretary of State is also scrutinised by the Education Select Committee.

In this support article, we provide an overview of the role of Education Secretary and link to more information.

Education Secretary: what are they responsible for?

GOV.UK explains that the Secretary of State for Education is responsible for the work of the DfE, including:

  • Early years
  • Children’s social care
  • Teacher quality, recruitment and retention
  • The school curriculum
  • School improvement
  • Academies and free schools
  • Further education
  • Apprenticeships and skills
  • Higher education

The Institute for Government explains that within days, a new Secretary of State can be in front of a Select Committee, answering questions in Parliament, defending government policy to the media or leading the response to a national emergency. 

Many Secretaries of State will only have a short tenure in office, 18 months to two years if they are lucky. 

This means that they do not have the luxury of time to learn the ropes; the break-neck speed of the job and the expectation that they hit the ground running leaves little time to adjust and consider how to do the job well.

The most important figures involved in inducting any new minister into the department are those that make up their private office. 

This is the civil service team dedicated to supporting the Secretary of State: managing his or her time, arranging meetings, selecting which papers they see and when, and advising them on the day-to-day responsibilities of the role. 

The private office provides continuity through changes of minister, and is appointed by the civil service, though ministers can ask for changes to the team if they feel they are needed. 

Education Secretary: further reading

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