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Annie Hayes

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Education gets the female touch

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David Blunkett’s departure sees Ruth Kelly fill Charles Clarke’s shoes as Education Secretary.

The Cabinet reshuffle instigated by the revelations that Blunkett fast-tracked a visa for his former lover’s nanny has paved the way for Kelly’s meteoric rise up the political ranks.

She enters Downing Street as the youngest female cabinet member (aged 36) in history, an impressive career balanced with the responsibilities of family-life; Kelly has four children.

She was educated at Queen’s College, Oxford, and the London School of Economics.

A whizz number-cruncher, Kelly’s aptitude for figures was first noticed when she worked as a journalist for the Guardian. In a scoop for the paper she unveiled to the world that Norman Lamont had broken the Treasury’s golden rules of spending in 1992.

She was soon recruited by Mervyn King at the Bank of England as deputy editor of the quarterly inflation report. After leaving this post she started out on her political career that was to see her win Bolton West, a Tory marginal in 1997.

Privately educated at Millfield and Westminster schools, critics say she doesn’t have the required experience needed for the post. With Schools Minister David Miliband also leaving education to take over Kelly’s previous post, commentators warn that too many changes for education are happening at a critical time.

She takes over Clarke’s ambitious designs for secondary school tuition, which sees more emphasis placed on vocational skills, on the job training and involvement by private sector businesses.

Kelly has been tipped by many papers to be the first female chancellor and pundits say she is one to ‘watch’. If she follows in the path of former Education Secretary for the Tories, Margaret Thatcher she could be in the right place to get to the top.

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Annie Hayes

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