Rayhan is currently a second-year undergraduate Politics student at King’s College London. Before moving from Yorkshire to London, Rayhan undertook his A-Levels at Ilkley Grammar School, where he achieved 3 A*s – among these, an A Level in Government and Politics. His drive and determination to succeed stems from his curiosity/deep interest in the world of British Politics and public policy. Rayhan interned at the constituency office of his local MP, where he was able to see first-hand the gravity of grassroots politics as well as producing various communications to be sent to Ministers/colleagues. Rayhan hopes that completion of the programme will support his aspirations to one day have an active role in the political world, either through the civil service – or a career in journalism.

On the 12th of July, 2023, Patchworkers from the ‘Political Fish’ cohort had the pleasure of attending a Masterclass with Rt Hon. Gillian Keegan MP, the Secretary of State for Education. It was a lively and uplifting evening, one of those events that will be ingrained in my memory for a long time. It brought home to me the commitment and diligence necessary for life as a Secretary of State with all the responsibilities that requires. It was a Wednesday, so she was naturally present on the front-bench at the weekly bout of PMQ’s in Parliament. That followed an afternoon of back to back meetings with senior officials and civil servants in the Department for Education. As Wednesday is known to be the busiest day of the week for MPs, it shone a light on the endless work that goes on behind the scenes. Formulating policy, attending meetings, addressing MPs and the media, the list is endless.

A symbolic reflection I took away from this Masterclass was that there isn’t an indisputable path to entering the world of work. Opportunities have expanded, and taking the same trajectory as everyone else does not promise desired outcomes. Apprenticeships are more recognised than ever before, with young people able to flourish by gaining unparalleled skills and experience, all whilst learning on the job!

Apprenticeships Redefined

Ms. Keegan’s route from her early life and career, to how she ended up in the political arena today is certainly something that should be lauded. She didn’t follow the conventional route deemed the norm among other politicians. Leaving school at 16, she propelled herself into the world of work, taking an apprenticeship in the car manufacturing sector. It was in her 40s when Ms. Keegan decided to pursue a career in politics. First running for district council, she was elected as the Conservative MP for Chichester in 2017. Education has always been at the top of Ms. Keegan’s in-tray, particularly as she went to school in the era of very high attainment gaps and fewer opportunities for those from a lower socio-economic background. Ensuring that the harder to reach people in society have the most access to education was something I observed being at the top of the Education Secretary’s priorities. Her first government role was as Apprenticeships and Skills Minister, where she honed on her personal experiences to advocate the expansion of vocational courses. This included the rollout of T-Levels in 2020, technical-based qualifications designed to bring together the ingenuity of employers and businesses. This clearly demonstrated the idea of creating alternative routes into a desired career path, highlighting the importance of Ms. Keegan’s role during her tenure as the Skills Minister. When Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister in October 2022, he appointed Ms. Keegan as Education Secretary, a rewarding role and a significant moment given her non-conformist route to reaching a seat at the Cabinet table.

Unleashing Education 2.0: Keegan’s Insights on Tech and AI

Whilst many fear the rise of AI and advancements in technology, it is clear to see that Ms. Keegan envisions a vast opportunity where education is concerned. The sense is that we should embrace new technologies rather than view them as a hindrance. Currently, the education sector remains mostly untouched by advancements in technology. The future of education seems bright; these new technologies could be utilised for the betterment of pupils and their academic potential. More personalised, digitised tutoring for pupils is just one tool at the Department for Education’s disposal in enhancing education systems and apprenticeships. This was hugely insightful from my perspective as I had never fully grasped the opportunities that can be gained from AI, if implemented correctly, of course. 

Expert Advice for Personal Development Success

Personally, my favourite segment of any Masterclass is receiving advice from the speaker about empowering and nurturing one’s career. I took Ms. Keegan’s advice very seriously, and I will forever be grateful for her encouraging and wise words. I gained an understanding of how much of a small world politics can be and the crucial component of managing relationships and networks professionally. Additionally, there was a shared acknowledgement amongst us of the obstacles present in advancing one’s political career. The idea that politics is more often about not what you know, but who you know. This underpins, in my opinion, the importance of facilitating meaningful networks and gaining invaluable experiences. Furthermore, one key theme that popped up continuously was ‘humility.’ The importance of taking people along with you – and having a sense of self-awareness. You are not the most important voice in the room. Humility is key. And that was exactly what we saw in Ms. Keegan that night, a public servant dedicated to improving education policy rooted in her desire to always be humble.

~ Rayhan Hussain, 2023 Masterclass Programme Participant