Record sighting of Education Secretaries
03 Mar 2009
Last night I saw four former Secretaries of State for Education in one room -- is that a record?
Ken (now Lord) Baker, John (also now Lord) MacGregor, Gillian Shephard, and David Blunkett were all in attendance.
And, for good measure, so were Lord Adonis, former Schools Minister and former policy advisor to Tony Blair. There was also quite a sprinkling of the great and the good in education, ranging from Sir William Atkinson to Anthony Seldon, two extraordinary - if rather different - head teachers.
So what brought this array of educational talent together? There is probably only one man who could reach across the political divide in this way (there were even some Liberal Democrats in the room too). I refer, of course, to Sir Cyril Taylor, advisor to no fewer than ten successive Education Secretaries from Ken Baker to Alan Johnson.
The occasion was the launch of his book - 'A Good School for Every Child - How To Improve Our Schools', published by David Fulton - which looks back over the revolution in English schools from the creation of City Technology Colleges to Specialist Schools, City Academies and Trusts.
David Blunkett explained why he had kept on the former Tory advisor after Labour won the election in 1997, saying that if he had not reappointed him the exuberantly enthusiastic Sir Cyril would have 'sat outside my door' until he relented. Paying tribute to Sir Cyril's contribution to the creation of City Academies and Specialist Schools, Mr Blunkett said: 'There are very few people who can look back and genuinely know that if they had not been there it would not have happened. And it happened because... (he was)... tenacious, efficient and a flaming nuisance'.
Lord Baker said Sir Cyril had made the CTC programme work when his civil servants at the department had mostly showed little enthusiasm for the project.
Lord Adonis compared Sir Cyril to Prince Talleyrand, one of the most versatile and long-serving diplomats in European history.
Noting the presence of both Lord Baker and David Blunkett, Lord Adonis commented that they were 'two of the most outstanding education ministers' of all time in England.
However Blunkett revealed that he was still jealous of his Tory predecessor whose name is still given to the 'Baker days' used for teachers' in-service training. 'I never had any Blunkett days named after me', he joked.