We welcome the announcement that Damian Hinds MP has been appointed as the new Secretary of State for Education. For those of you unfamiliar with who he is, DYT answers questions on his experience and stance on education. 

Quick facts:

  • Born 1969 in Paddington.
  • Educated at St. Ambrose College, a Voluntary Aided Roman Catholic Grammar school in Altrincham in Cheshire, followed by Trinity College, Oxford, where he read Philosophy, Politics and Economics. He was also president of the Oxford Union Society while there.
  • Before politics he spent 18 years working in the pubs, brewing and hotel industries, in Britain and abroad.
  • He lives between Alton and Petersfield with his wife Jacqui and their three young children.
  • He was Chair of the Conservative think tank, The Bow Group from 2001-2002.
  • He was elected Conservative MP for East Hampshire in May 2010.
  • His previous government roles were as Minister of State for the Department of Work and Pensions from July 2016 to January 2018 and as Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury from 2015-2016.

What is his experience and interests on education?

  • On his website, Hinds states his main areas of interest include tackling disadvantage and widening opportunity.
  • He served on the Education Committee from July 2010 – November 2012, during this period the committee looked into the English Baccalaureate, the role and performance of Ofsted and how to train and retain “great teachers.”
  • He was Chair of the APPG for Social Mobility, in 2012 the APPG published a report – “7 Key truths about social mobility” – which recognised that “children must be able to access learning through reading” was a key policy challenge. It also stated that, “Intuitively, it makes sense that teacher quality is the #1 factor in educational outcomes.” Watch his presentation at the launch of the report from 2:42 onwards here.
  •  Having been educated at a catholic grammar school he has demonstrated a strong interest in faith schools and the admissions rules that apply to faith schools. On the 30th April 2014, Hinds led a debate on catholic schools, read the transcript here. 
  •  According to the website TheyWorkForYou, his voting record shows he has consistently been in line with the government. As such, he has consistently voted for academy schools, for raising the undergraduate tuition fee to £9,000, and for ending financial support for some 16-19 year olds in education and training.

What about SEND? 

  • Hinds has asked five written questions on Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities since he was first elected in 2010.
  • In 2011 he asked a series of questions on family tribunal cases against local authorities relating to SEND.
  • In 2012 he asked how many entrants for GCSEs were permitted in the last 15 years had  SpLD or a statement of SEN.
  • In 2013 he asked what proportion of SEND learners achieved the English Baccalaureate.
  • See all his written questions on SEND here.
  • On the 16th January 2013, Hinds contributed to an Opposition debate on examination reform stating that he hoped “better recognition of SEN” would improve over time. See here.

What to expect? 

I regard this as a largely status quo appointment. Hinds clearly shares the passion and sees the significance of social mobility in the same light as his predecessor, Justine Greening. He has been welcomed by many on the left of the Conservative Party, Education Committee Chair, Robert Halfon had this to say:

He certainly views the importance of education and especially teachers at the heart of the strategy behind driving social mobility, thus the vision and commitments made by Greening in her 14th December speech on the subject should remain seen as the mission statement of the Department for Education in 2018.

The one significant departure from the Greening tenure is in Hinds’ views towards grammar and faith schools. Whereas she was the first block to the Number 10’s plans behind “Schools that work for everyone,” he is likely to be happier to promote and push forward with the policy especially regarding faith school admissions. As TES says – if this signals anything, it’s that N0.10 is determined to take back control of education policy.”

What is for sure is the fact that Damian Hinds inherits a bulging red ministerial box with a number of policy issues in need of resolving. 

I will do a more in depth blog about the legacy of Greening and what Hinds’ appointment means for education and SEND policy going forward in the coming days.