Business-like in his approach, Mr Zahawi clearly wants to apply the same zeal that he demonstrated over the rollout of the UK’s world-leading vaccine programme.
And, as an individual who arrived in this country from his native Iraq at the age of 11, and with barely a word of English to his name, he will hope that his own experiences will inspire a generation of young people.
However the current challenges in Barnsley’s schools with regard to funding – and teaching – will be a key test of his leadership and credentials.
First funding. A growing number of pupils with special educational needs and disabilities means the council faces a £11.7m budget deficit in this area of policy this year – a figure which is set to rise to £36.8m by 2025.
Next teachers. A cursory glance at Facebook groups, such as Life After Teaching, reveals a level of deep disillusionment that is prompting many school staff, very able people with so much still to offer, to leave the profession.
This makes it harder for areas like Barnsley, with longstanding records of under-attainment, to attract high calibre teachers to help drive up school standards.
How Mr Zahawi overcomes this, at a time when there are recurring reports that education will be the big loser in the forthcoming Spending Review, will be an early indicator of his ability to make a difference – and put schools at the heart of the Government’s much-vaunted levelling up agenda.
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