Reshuffle: Who are the new team at the top of the DfE?

Boris Johnson has made sweeping changes at the Department for Education this week. So who are the new people in charge?

Catherine Lough

Who's in Nadhim Zahawi's new team at the DfE?

Big changes were afoot in Westminister this week, as prime minister Boris Johnson's Cabinet reshuffle resulted in Gavin Williamson being replaced as education secretary by vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi.

Wednesday also brought the surprise news that Department for Education mainstay Nick Gibb would leave his post as schools minister, following nearly a decade's work at the heart of education policy.


Reshuffle: Robin Walker appointed to take over as schools minister

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Pledge: Zahawi says he will listen to teachers and invest in schools


So, who are the key players now in the department? And what can we expect from them policy-wise?

Education secretary: Nadhim Zahawi

As vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi was praised for his management of the rollout of the scheme and is seen as a steady pair of hands.

A senior government figure reportedly said back in February: "He's got the potential to be a Cabinet minister. He's very capable." The co-founder of polling firm YouGov in the early 2000s, Mr Zahawi was a Wandsworth councillor for West Putney in the mid-1990s and became MP for Stratford-on-Avon in 2010.

Five years later, he took on his first specialist education role as apprenticeship adviser to David Cameron.

He has spoken out against off-rolling and also pushed for funding to secure the future of nursery schools.

School leaders have stressed that the new secretary of state for education will need to rebuild trust with the profession after a tumultuous couple of years.

Read our full profile of the new education secretary here.

Schools minister: Robin Walker

Robin Walker had served as a minister in the Northern Ireland office since 2020, and also worked as a parliamentary under secretary of state in the office.

The self-described "One Nation Tory", educated at St Paul's School and Balliol College, Oxford, is MP for Worcester, a noted swing seat that was also held by his father, Lord Walker of Worcester, secretary of state for Wales under Margaret Thatcher.

Robin Walker was the parliamentary private secretary to former education secretary Nicky Morgan. He worked closely with her on a White Paper exploring further academy conversions, which could suggest the future direction of travel at the DfE.  

Children's minister: Will Quince

Replacing Vicky Ford is Will Quince, MP for Colchester and a former parliamentary under secretary of state in work and pensions.

Mr Quince has previously spoken about the need for long-term budgeting in education, telling the Commons in 2019 that "we need a long-term plan for education and schools, in the same way that we have one for our NHS".

He added that the vast majority of school budgets were spent on people, and that "if there is no more fat to trim, the only place left to go is to reduce staff, and that will have a detrimental impact on pupils’ attainment and, indeed, outcomes across the board".

Speaking in a debate on knife crime in 2019, Mr Quince said he had campaigned for first-aid education and weapons awareness education to be on the national curriculum.

As with Gavin Williamson, Mr Quince's wife works in education as a teacher.

Apprenticeships and skills minister: Alex Burghart

Alex Burghart has been named as minister for apprenticeships and skills. The MP for Brentwood and Ongar previously argued for more money for the national funding formula in 2019, stating that he had "heard concerns from my local headteachers about funding".

He has also spoken about the need to ensure that disadvantaged pupils are represented in grammar schools, including those who face deprivation but are not eligible for free school meals.

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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