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Thursday, July 29, 1999 Published at 11:49 GMT 12:49 UK


Education ministers change in reshuffle

Malcolm Wicks says education is the "engine of equality"

Malcolm Wicks has been appointed as an education minister in the prime minister's reshuffle - as Charles Clarke is moved to the Home Office.

It is expected that Mr Wicks will take responsibility for "lifelong learning", which will include the continuing reform of post-16 education and the further education sector.

[ image: Former teacher Jacqui Smith has been promoted from the backbenches]
Former teacher Jacqui Smith has been promoted from the backbenches
Another ministerial appointment to the Department for Education is Jacqui Smith, a 36-year-old backbencher and former economics teacher, who will work with the School Standards Minister, Estelle Morris, on raising achievement in the classroom.

As this representative of the 'Blair babes' steps up to a ministerial post, George Mudie loses his job as a junior education minister.

Also joining the reshuffled ministerial team will be Michael Wills, previously at the Department of Trade and Industry, who will take responsibility for the development of the government's introduction of information technology in schools and the National Grid for Learning.

[ image: Michael Wills will take charge of the government's plans for the Internet in schools]
Michael Wills will take charge of the government's plans for the Internet in schools
Currently Chair of the House of Commons Education Select Committee, Malcolm Wicks has been responsible for a number of high-profile reports into the education system.

Earlier this year, Mr Wicks's all-party committee attacked the performance of the Chief Inspector of Schools in England, Chris Woodhead, in an investigation into the workings of the Office for Standards in Education.

Mr Wicks is committed to the use of education as a means of achieving greater social equality, saying that New Labour would have failed if it did not break the link between deprivation and poor educational performance.

[ image: Charles Clarke, now leaving the education department, helped to prevent the sell-off of school playing fields]
Charles Clarke, now leaving the education department, helped to prevent the sell-off of school playing fields
Mr Clarke, who had responsibility for school standards, is to become minister of state at the Home Office, in the shake-up of middle and junior ranking ministers.

A member of parliament only since the 1997 general election, Mr Clarke's year in education had seen him pressing ahead with the government's plans to introduce an online learning network, the National Grid for Learning.

Mr Clarke also introduced regulations to protect school playing fields from being sold off for redevelopment and in other efforts to encourage school sport and healthy living, the minister launched initiatives to reduce the school run and to encourage more exercise for the young.

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