The Secretary of State for Education, the Right Honourable Nicky Morgan MP, outlined her vision for education in Britain yesterday (27 Nov) when she gave the annual Priestley Lecture at the University of Birmingham.
Ms Morgan told an audience at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts about her goal of creating an education system that is ‘truly life-transforming, which breaks down barriers and narrows inequalities’.
During her lecture, titled ‘Our Plan for Education’, the Secretary of State said education had been a ‘lifelong passion’ and – with reference to the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues at the University of Birmingham – talked about the importance of character education in schools and her desire to work with universities.
She said: ‘One of my first acts as Education Secretary was to announce that my department would have a new focus on character education.
‘Much of this work has been inspired by the work of the Jubilee Centre at Birmingham University and its innovative research on character education and its work with schools to build best practice in this area.’
Describing the Jubilee Centre as a ‘pioneer’ in recognising that character can be taught, Ms Morgan added: ‘Like the Jubilee Centre we passionately believe that we owe it to today’s young people to help them marry the highest standards of academic rigour with the character foundation needed to help them flourish.’
Ms Morgan was welcomed on stage by Professor James Arthur, Head of the School of Education, and thanked by Professor Saul Becker, Head of the College of Social Sciences. After her lecture she answered a number of questions from the floor on topics including the importance of the arts and humanities, the purpose of religious education, and the measurability of character education.
The Priestley Lectures were named after Sir Raymond Priestley, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Birmingham from 1938 to 1952, who was a great supporter of the education of teachers. Speakers in recent years have included Baroness Estelle Morris and Dr Anthony Selden. The lectures are organised by the University’s School of Education.
Ms Morgan, the Member of Parliament for Loughborough since 2010, was appointed Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities in July this year. Her previous roles in government include Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Minister for Women, and Economic Secretary to the Treasury.