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Damian Hinds is new education secretary

Damian Hinds

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Damian Hinds arriving this evening in Downing Street

Damian Hinds has been announced as England’s education secretary in the prime minister’s Cabinet reshuffle.

He will replace Justine Greening, who is leaving the government.

Ms Greening, the Conservatives’ first comprehensive-educated education secretary turned down a switch to the Department for Work and Pensions.

Mr Hinds, formerly a minister at the DWP, went to a Catholic grammar school in Altrincham and then studied at the University of Oxford.

University challenges

The MP for East Hampshire is a former chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility.

The new education secretary will face pressures over school funding and decisions about university tuition fees.

Geoff Barton, leader of the ASCL head teachers’ union, said he was disappointed to see Ms Greening’s departure.

“She has tried hard to tackle the school funding crisis, without any help from the Chancellor or prime minister,” said Mr Barton.

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Justine Greening had turned down a move to the Department for Work and Pensions

Jules White, a West Sussex head teacher who co-ordinated letters sent to 2.5 million parents over school funding concerns, says too often schools policy has been sidetracked by “dubious ideological pursuits” or “tinkering around the edges”.

Mr White said Mr Hinds would have to “urgently address” core problems over school funding and teacher shortages.

The National Association of Head Teachers called for more stability and investment.

“Where budgets are at breaking point and recruitment is still a massive challenge, education does not need more upheaval,” said the NAHT’s leader, Paul Whiteman.

School funding proved to be an important doorstep issue in the election – and Ms Greening announced that an extra £1.3bn of the education department’s budget would be moved to schools.

The new education secretary also faces big decisions over higher education, including the future of tuition fees and university funding.

The Prime Minister Theresa May has promised there will be a major review of how students pay for university – after pledges from Labour to young voters that they would scrap tuition fees.

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said Mr Hinds had “raised social mobility more assiduously than any other Tory backbencher I can think of”.

Grammar schools

Ms Greening had made social mobility the focus of her 18 months in office and had built bridges with the teaching profession.

But there had been questions about whether her approach aligned with the priorities of 10, Downing Street and whether her schools policy was connecting with the public.

The Conservatives’ flagship policy of bringing back grammar schools was abandoned in the wake of the election.

There was said to be backbench disquiet that the push for more selection had been sidelined – and there will be scrutiny of whether Mr Hinds, a former grammar school boy, will be more sympathetic.

Mr Hinds will also have to tackle the delayed decision on whether to change the rules to make it easier for faith groups to open free schools, pledged in the Conservatives’ election manifesto.

With the focus on Brexit, there was no education legislation in the last Queen’s Speech.

And the incoming education secretary will be expected to re-energise the Conservatives’ plans for schools.

The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir Vince Cable, said of Ms Greening’s replacement: “The only rational explanation would be that this is an acknowledgement that the Conservatives have a failed schools policy.”

Analysis by Branwen Jeffreys, education editor.

It all looked so promising at the start. Justine Greening was the straight talking Education Secretary who’d gone to a comprehensive in Rotherham not a public school.

She talked frankly of a “social mobility emergency”, which seemed to fit closely with the PM’s agenda of reaching the squeezed middle.

But Justine Greening was never a standard bearer for ideological reforms, whether the free school programme or new grammar schools.

School budgets were under pressure from rising costs, and the data was weaponised by teaching unions into a website that showed the impact on each school.

That ignited campaigning that had a devastating effect on the Conservative vote at the ballot box in the general election. Some extra money came, but too late to make much impact.

A series of political sticking plasters were applied to the sore point of tuition fees, now frozen with a rather mysterious review underway.

Education is the third largest area of government spending, and polling suggests the public now see it as the third biggest concern facing Britain.

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