Social Sciences

Visits to English Schools by Nadhim Zahawi

Written by Mamie M. Arndt

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Which schools has Nadhim Zahawi visited since his appointment as Secretary of State for Education?

On 2nd February 2022, I made a Freedom of Information request to the Department for Education (DfE) to learn what schools Nadhim Zahawi MP has been visiting.

Why find out where School Ministers visit?

I have been making Freedom of Information requests to the Department for Education since June 2018 when Damian Hinds was in office. Irked by former Schools Minister Nick Gibb when he said, “I will visit any school.”

My analysis today clearly suggests this is not true – and the same for everyone in power.

When Nadhim Zahawi was appointed in September 2021, there was a brief period of optimism following the sacking of (soon-to-be-made-a-Lord) incompetent Gavin Williamson. I set out 10 areas of focus, and given the White Paper has recently been published, there is at least some renewed optimism about SEND reforms.

Freedom of Information

Due to the pandemic, I was unable to conduct any ‘school visit’ analysis because we were all in lockdown. When I finally put my request through after one school term, I asked:

“…of the number of visits to early years, primary and secondary state schools, FE / HEI colleges and English independent schools (including overseas education visits) by Nadhim Zahawi MP from 15 September 2021 to 2nd February 2022. Please provide this data broken down by where appropriate as:

  1. Date of visit
  2. Name of school
  3. Type of school (including free school, grammar, studio etc)
  4. Region
  5. Ofsted grading.”

Two months later I finally got a brief reply. It would have been easier to search Zahawi’s Twitter – completed below.

The Department for Education (finally) responded …

Since 15 September 2021, Nadhim Zahawi has visited 7 schools and colleges throughout the 140 day period (collected). If we analyse Zahawi’s visits and remove one week for half-term, plus two weeks at Christmas, this equates to 16 weeks of work for this request.

This means Nadhim Zahawi has visited 7 schools from a possible 112 days in his DfE position. If we also remove the weekends (32 days) from the possible ‘school weeks’ Zahawi could visit a school, this leaves 7 schools out of a possible 80 days (over a five-month period).

That’s an average of 0.08 schools per school week. This is pretty poor in comparison to former Education Secretary of State postholders. I could be a little more lenient in my criticism considering COVID is still with us.

In comparison, I’ve reached 19 schools in the same period. I appreciate that he’s probably a little bit busier and more important than I, however, I’m still working under the same COVID guidance as Zahawi …

Let’s take a closer look …

  1. West Coventry Academy, 23 September 2021
  2. Westbury-on-Trym C of E Academy, 15 October 2021
  3. Barnsley College, 21 October 2021 (me, one month behind)
  4. Aston University, 17 November 2021
  5. St Mary’s Catholic Academy, 18 November 2021
  6. Brunel University, 25 November 2021
  7. Hammersmith Academy, 6 January 2022.

N.b. this list is not accurate; see footnotes.

Ofsted rating at the time of visit

  • Number of Outstanding visits = 1
  • Number of Good visits = 3
  • Number of Requires Improvement visits = 1
  • Number of Inadequate visits = 0
  • Number of Special Measures visits = 0
  • Number of schools/colleges with no Ofsted rating visits = 0
  • Number of visits unknown = 0
  • Number of academies = 4
  • Number of local authority schools = 0
  • Number of colleges = 3
  • Note, universities are not graded by Ofsted.

It is clear that the DfE officials continue to ostracise the teaching profession by visiting schools that align with academisation policy.

If you work in an academy or an academy-converter school, you’re more likely to receive a visit from policymakers; they are uncomfortable visiting schools that are struggling or those that belong to the local authority.

I think it’s time to see what Amanda Spielman has been up to next since Ofsted has been reinspecting …


Footnote

I’ve taken a closer look at Nadhim Zahawi’s timeline on Twitter and had to reply back to the DfE:

  1. He visited King Edward VI School, Stratford-upon-Avon on 24. 09. 2021.
  2. There’s also evidence of his visit to Barnet and Southgate College on 17.09.2021
  3. 4) Finally, evidence of a visit to Sheffield Park Academy organised by Speakers 4 Schools on 10.03.2022 – I appreciate that this falls outside the FOI request.
  4. It would be in the interests of taxpayers to learn if 1) this was a state visit 2) did any funds swap hands: Did the school pay for School Speakers or did School Speakers put in the request to the DfE for Mr. Zahawi to visit?



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Mamie M. Arndt