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8 facts about education secretary Bridget Phillipson

Bridget Phillipson has been appointed as education secretary in Sir Keir Starmer’s first Labour cabinet.

The move was widely expected – the MP for Houghton and Sunderland South has been her party’s education lead since 2021.

Here’s what we know about her

She was born in Gateshead in 1983. At 40, she is one of the youngest people to have held the role, but not the youngest. Ruth Kelly was 36 when she was appointed in 2004. Michelle Donelan was 38 when she was appointed – for just 35 hours – during the political crisis in 2022.

Phillipson has been an MP since 2010. She was elected to represent Houghton and Sunderland South. She is the first MP representing a north east constituency to be education secretary since Edward Short, who served under Harold Wilson in the late 1960s.

She was appointed as shadow education secretary in November 2021, replacing Kate Green. Before that she served as shadow chief secretary to the treasury. She had previously served on the back benches for the first decade of her Parliamentary career.

Phillipson was comprehensively educated. This is fairly unusual for education secretaries throughout the history of the role, although it has become more common in recent years. Justine Greening was the first education secretary to be fully educated in the state comprehensive system when she was appointed in 2016.

She is Oxbridge-educated. Phillipson read modern history at Hertford College, Oxford, graduating in 2005. Attending an Oxbridge university is also not unusual among education secretaries. Damian Hinds, Nicky Morgan and Ed Balls are among the other postholders from the past 20 years to have attended Oxford or Cambridge.

Politics is in her blood. Phillipson has spoken about how she attended Labour meetings as a child with her mother, Claire, a party official. After graduation, she went on to work in local government and then for the charity Wearside Women in Need, which her mother founded.

Phillipson is thought to be the first education secretary who was on free school meals as a pupil. She grew up in a council house, and has said how her own experience in education shaped her vision for the sector. She wrote in the Guardian earlier this year that “the brilliant state education I received set me up for life and led the shy, quiet girl with the long plaits in the corner of the classroom to where I am today”.

The new education secretary made childcare, rather than schools policy, an early priority while she was in opposition. But she has also spoken of the need to address serious issues in schools, such as crumbling school buildings and the SEND crisis.

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