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Last Updated: Friday, 5 May 2006, 16:26 GMT 17:26 UK
Profile: Ruth Kelly
Ruth Kelly has been moved from the role of education secretary to head a new local government department, with many of the responsibilities formerly held by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.

Ruth Kelly
Ruth Kelly has been seen as a rising star of the Labour party

Her time at the Department for Education and Skills was not the most trouble-free.

She took on the job some 17 months ago, in the reshuffle that followed the resignation of David Blunkett.

Her appointment was questioned following revelations of links to the Catholic conservative movement Opus Dei, which critics accuse of being secretive and elitist - claims members deny.

Ms Kelly rejected calls to quit her job or break off links with the group and said: "It is a private spiritual life and I don't think it is relevant to my job."

An early row in her new post also saw her criticised by teaching unions after she rejected government advisor Sir Mike Tomlinson's proposals to replace GCSEs and A-levels with a new diploma.

School reforms

More recently, she has run into enormous political flak - not least from Labour backbenchers - over the proposed changes to schooling in England and the introduction of trust schools.

She and Tony Blair have worked hard in recent weeks to try to win over dissenting backbenchers and former ministers but doubters remain.

The Education and Inspections Bill passed its first major Commons hurdle only with Conservative support and is still being challenged as it makes its way through Parliament.

When the Department for Education and Skills came under fire in January in the row over sex offenders in schools, Ms Kelly announced an urgent review of the systems by which people are allowed to work with children.

The measures announced in the legislation published on 1 March are designed to close loopholes which allowed people cautioned but not charged with sexual offences to work in schools.

There was talk at the time that her job might be in jeopardy but she impressed observers with a confident Commons performance.

Ruth Kelly
Ruth Kelly has balanced having four children with a sparkling career

At the age of just 36 when appointed, Ms Kelly was the youngest Cabinet minister by 10 years despite having been in Parliament only since 1997.

She also holds a record by giving birth to four children while an MP.

Her first child was born just 11 days after she took the marginal seat of Bolton West from the Conservatives and some commentators have called her a "super mum".

Conservative MP Boris Johnson once said: "I admire the way she has managed to be a real person as well as succeeding in politics. She must be identical twins."

Ms Kelly, born in Limavady, Northern Ireland, attended Sutton High School and the private Westminster School.

She went on to study politics, philosophy and economics at Queen's College, Oxford, followed by an MSc in economics at the London School of Economics.

She married Derek Gadd, a local government officer, in 1996 and he reportedly changed his job to help Ms Kelly's career.

Ms Kelly lists her leisure interests as walking, swimming and watching Bolton Wanderers football club.

Climbing the ladder

Her first job was as an economics reporter for the Guardian, where she is said to have spotted that Tory Chancellor Norman Lamont had broken his "golden rule" in the 1992 Budget.

She moved on to the Bank of England, where she was deputy editor of the quarterly inflation report.

Once an MP, she joined the Treasury select committee and a year later was made a parliamentary aide to Nick Brown, the then minister for agriculture, fisheries and food.

In that role, she had to deal with the foot-and-mouth crisis.

She became a minister for the first time after the 2001 election - joining Gordon Brown's team as economic secretary to the Treasury.

She was later promoted to financial secretary but took a bigger leap up the government ladder in September 2004, becoming minister of state for the Cabinet Office.

She combined that role with being Labour's deputy election and policy co-ordinator, and was involved in drafting up Labour's manifesto for its third term in government.




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