WHO IS SARAH TEATHER?

WHO IS SARAH TEATHER?

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Sarah Teather is a Liberal Democrat, Minister of State for Children and Families in the Coalition governments  Department for Education. She is  Michael Goves deputy.

Sarah was Britain’s youngest MP when she was elected to Parliament in a by-election in Brent East in September 2003.

She was the Liberal Democrats’ shadow housing minister before this election. She is to the left of the party.  Before her election to parliament, Sarah read Natural Sciences at St John’s College, Cambridge. She worked in science policy both in the public and private sectors, first at the Royal Society advising the UK government on scientific aspects of public policy, and later at a science policy consultancy, evaluating public policies on science and innovation for governments across Europe. Immediately before her election Sarah was working as a health and social policy analyst for Macmillan Cancer Relief. Sarah is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Small in stature, she is regarded as something of a human dynamo, bringing immense amounts of energy to any task she chooses to  take on. She was also one of the few MPs wholly untainted by the expenses scandal.  She wears her liberal credentials too on her sleeve, chairing the All Party Parliamentary Guantanamo Bay group and actively campaigning for prisoners’ rights.

She has been a influential member of the Liberal Democrats. After the 2005 general election she was promoted to the front bench to serve as the Liberal Democrat Spokeswoman on Community and Local Government.

On 6 January 2006, 25 Liberal Democrat MPs signed a letter drafted by Teather and fellow frontbencher Ed Davey, also now  a Minister in the Coalition , indicating their unwillingness to continue working under party leader Charles Kennedy.  The Guardian claimed the letter to be “the most damning” of the publicly expressed sentiments regarding Kennedy’s position, and later that day Kennedy announced his resignation.

Teather supported Menzies Campbell in the subsequent leadership election.  She was the party spokeswoman on education and skills (Mar 2006 – Jul 2007) and on Innovation, universities and skills (Jul 2007 – Dec 2007); and Business, enterprise and regulatory reform spokeswoman (Dec 2007 – Oct 2008) and Lib Dem spokeswoman, on housing (Oct 2008 – May 2010).

On the Labour Government scrapping the Youth ID Scheme she said ” “Tackling bullying, recruiting expert teachers and an exciting curriculum are the ways to keep young people interested in education, not ill thought out reward schemes.”  A Liberal Democrat survey of Local Education Authorities (LEAs) in England revealed that at least 285 schools were fingerprinting children, but the figure is likely to be much higher. Teather was appalled. On fingerprinting in schools she said, “These figures confirm the extremely worrying state of affairs where schools are fingerprinting pupils without proper guidance on whether it is legal to do so.” “The Government needs to respond to the concerns of parents and teachers and produce strict regulations for using this technology in schools.” “An awful lot of people are washing their hands of responsibility of this issue while this practice spreads unregulated.”

She is against tuition fees, wants ID cards abolished (as do the Tories) and her voting record suggests she is not in favour of greater autonomy for schools.  Teather told the BBC in an April interview that she thought the ‘free schools initiative was just a gimmick’.  She said, ‘it’s a shambles unless you give local authorities that power to plan and unless you actually make sure that there is money available’. There are possible future tensions here between Teather and her Tory colleagues in the education department, with an Academies Bill announced in the Queens speech.

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