You might have woken up to the news this morning that we have a new Secretary of State for Education. It was announced last night that Justine Greening has been replaced by Damian Hinds in the cabinet reshuffle. Does this mean major changes are afoot for your child’s school career? Well, thankfully we are happy to say you can relax for now. There's no need to panic about impending major changes in the education landscape now that there's a new person in charge who will want to put their own stamp on things. While Justine Greening's eighteen-month tenure as Education Secretary is one of the shortest in recent years, Education Secretaries have come and gone fairly regularly. New Education Secretary Damian Hinds follows Justine Greening, Nicky Morgan and Michael Gove, who have all taken the role since the Conservative-led Coalition government of 2010.
What can we say about the immediate impact?
Although there have been a lot of changes in education this decade, from academisation and the creation of free schools to assessments, the tempo in which new legislation is developed, approved and then put into action is slow. An incoming Education Secretary inherits policies developed by their predecessor, and also has to toe the line of their party's overall vision. Since the budget is allocated by the Chancellor, there will be no sudden financial windfall for schools. So in short: don't anticipate any major changes or reversals in the next few weeks.
What do we know about Damian Hinds?
The 48-year old MP for East Hampshire was formerly the Employment Minister for the Department for Work and Pensions. Education is one of his interests: Hinds sat on the Education Committee between 2010 and 2012 during Michael Gove's time as Education Secretary. Hinds was in favour of academisation – the creation of state schools autonomous from Local Authority control (put into action by Gove). Hinds has previously advocated in favour of removing the current 50% cap on faith-based admissions to religious free schools.
What does the Education Secretary do?
They are the minister in charge of implementing government policy that drives the Department for Education. Under devolved powers, they are responsible solely for England. Their brief is wide, covering not just schools but areas including early years, adoption and child protection, teachers' pay as well as higher and further education. The DfE's current priorities are:
- Safety and wellbeing: all children and young people are protected from harm and vulnerable children are supported to succeed with opportunities as good as those for any other child.
- Educational excellence everywhere: every child and young person can access high-quality provision, achieving to the best of his or her ability regardless of location, attainment and background.
- Prepared for adult life: all 19-year-olds complete school or college with the skills and character to contribute to the UK's society and economy and are able to access high-quality work or study options.
What can we expect from the new Education Secretary?
It is likely that Damian Hinds will continue to promote social mobility in education which Justine Greening championed – he was formerly chair of the APPG on Social Mobility within parliament. Whether or not this means that he will implement in full Justine Greening's recently-released Social Mobility Action Plan: Unlocking Talent; Fulfilling Potential, amend it, or develop his own action plan, remains to be seen. However, social mobility is likely to remain high on the agenda. We'll keep you updated.