A former apprentice who left school at 16 and went on to study a degree in business has been appointed as the fifth education secretary in four months.
Gillian Keegan, who worked in manufacturing, banking, IT and marketing before entering politics, replaces Kit Malthouse, education secretary under Liz Truss.
Elected to Parliament for the West Sussex seat of Chichester in 2017, Keegan already has some experience in education, and served as a junior minister for apprenticeships and skills between 2020 and 2021.
More recently, she became a junior Foreign Office minister last month, with responsibility for Africa.
Keegan was born in Leigh, Lancashire, then went to primary school in Yorkshire before moving to Knowsley, Merseyside, a borough which became renowned for educational underperformance. She was the only pupil to get 10 O-Levels at her comprehensive school.
Keegan said in a Tweet last night that she was “deeply honoured” by her appointment and would “work tirelessly” to ensure opportunity was spread equally around the country.
Her first tasks as secretary of state include dealing with school funding and the threat of strikes from both teachers and school leaders.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT school leaders’ union, commented on the appointment: “School leaders will be hopeful that in Gillian Keegan we might now finally have an education secretary who understands that education should be seen not as a drain on the nation’s finances, but as the best investment that can be made in our country’s future – and who stays the course to the next election to make education a priority for this government again.”