Mr Halfon, who won a majority in a secret ballot of MPs for the position yesterday (12 July) with 261 votes, takes over from Neil Carmichael, MP for Stroud.
The MP for Harlow in Essex served as skills and apprenticeship minister up until last month when he was sacked by Prime Minister Theresa May following the general election.
In his statement to the House of Commons ahead of the vote, Mr Halfon listed early years as one of his priorities, in particular ‘scrutinising the implementation of the 30 hours of funded childcare and the resources needed to support nursery schools'. He also states he wants to ‘examine the new schools funding formula and work for a fair allocation of available resources, improve standards, particularly in literacy and numeracy’.
Other priorities include apprenticeships and skills – covering the Apprenticeship Levy and T Levels, the new name for vocational qualifications, being brought in under the Skills Plan - as well as careers and social justice.
Posting on Facebook ahead of being elected the new chair of the committee, Mr Halfon said, ‘I believe that education has the potential to provide a real ladder of opportunity for all. It gives people the skills and training they need to ensure that they get the jobs, security and prosperity for their future. Government is there to bring learners to the ladder and help them climb to the top.’
Commenting on the appointment, Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said, ‘We welcome the election of Robert Halfon to the role of chair of the education select committee and look forward to working with him. We are encouraged that he has listed the implementation of 30 hours in a bullet-pointed list of matters for urgent focus in his statement.
‘With 30 hours at serious risk of failure due to low funding rates, and full roll-out less than two months away, it’s vital that the committee makes this a priority and looks at solutions that could make it deliverable, such as the ability to charge for extras such as food, as a condition of a place. In Essex, the location of Mr Halfon’s constituency, for example, the average rate paid to nurseries is £4.21 per hour - hardly a viable amount for the South East of England, taking into account higher overheads.’