DfE perm sec Jonathan Slater on how he’s putting teachers, social workers, parents, learners at the heart of its work

Written by Civil Service World on 25 December 2018 in Feature

With the end of 2018 fast approaching, we asked the UK's top civil servants to look back at the year, outline their goals for 2019 – and tell us who would turn on their town’s Christmas lights.

Photo: Baldo Sciacca

What was your highlight of 2018?

A highlight of 2018 for me was being introduced by DfE colleagues in Sheffield to a group of supported interns working for a major employer in the city. Hearing from these young adults with special educational needs and disabilities about the great jobs they’re doing, against all previous expectations, with a helping hand from the civil service, was absolutely inspiring.

What was the hardest part of being a leader in 2018?

Having to say goodbye to two wonderful colleagues – Howard Orme and Jeremy Heywood – so long before their time. Two of the most generous people I’ve ever worked with.

What are the main challenges facing your department in the coming year?

To put our users – teachers, social workers, parents, learners – right at the centre of our work. We’re on a mission to challenge ourselves to make the most positive difference we possibly can in the circumstances we face.

Which celebrity or historical figure would you choose to turn on the Christmas lights in your town, and why?

I would choose Michelle Obama to turn on the Christmas lights in our town. As I write this, I am watching school girls in Islington and Tower Hamlets who are blown away by her second visit. I’d love the chance to meet her too. And if it isn’t too greedy, could James Corden join her for a repeat Carpool Karaoke performance? Singing ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours’ as the lights come on – how great would that be?

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