Damian Hinds' spell as education secretary is over

Teaching unions praise Hinds' work on teacher recruitment and retention but say he failed to do enough on funding

Martin George

Damian Hinds served as education secretary for 18 months.

Damian Hinds has lost his job as education secretary as new prime minister Boris Johnson reshuffles the Cabinet.

In a tweet at 5.15 this afternoon, Mr Hinds said: "It has been the greatest privilege to serve as education secretary. Thank you to the brilliant team at @educationgovuk.

"And thank you to everyone working in education and children's care, for all you do. I look forward to supporting the government from the backbenches."

Mr Hinds, who replaced Justine Greening in January 2018, continued his predecessor's work on teacher recruitment and retention. He also slimmed down the school accountability system and promoted both character education and edtech.

But with both funding and parliamentary votes at a premium, there were no big policy initiatives during his 18-month spell at Sanctuary Buildings

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Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, told Tes “we should be generous in our assessment of Damian Hinds”.

He cited three decisions that he said “may not sound bold”, but he said were significant: the promise of no more curriculum or qualification reform; the teacher recruitment and retention strategy, and the abolition of the floor and coasting standards.

Mr Barton said: “He did not just embrace the teacher recruitment and retention strategy, he went and fought for money for that because he saw that we had to do something in order to start making teaching a more professional profession.

“I think people won’t be aware of how he made that a bit of a personal crusade to do that.”

On the removal of floor and coasting standards – measures of schools’ exam data that triggered formal intervention – he said: “In a culture where accountability seemed to drive everything, that was quite a liberating move from him that perhaps didn’t always get the recognition it needed.”

On funding, Mr Barton said the failure of a funding boost for schools as part of Theresa May’s attempt to secure a legacy “has to be deemed a failure at this stage”.

Sir Kevan Collins, chief executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: “Damian’s urge for us to broaden our agenda and think about the whole education of children and childhood is very important.

“It’s a really important call to the system to, yes, work on improving standards, but never to lose sight of the whole child and childhood – as he described it in the list he set out with the experiences all children should have as part of their childhood.”

However, Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, said Mr Hinds “will be judged more by what he hasn't done as what he has”.

He added: “While efforts may have increased, Damian Hinds has ultimately failed to win the case in government for restoring education funding to pre-cuts levels, leaving schools and the wider sector struggling to provide learners the educational opportunities they should expect.”

Despite Mr Hinds’ pledge to make workload a key priority, Mr Courtney said the evidence “shows little movement”.

He added that “only time will tell if the belated recruitment and retention strategy will make a difference”.

Mr Hinds’ first speech as education secretary focused on edtech, and in April 2019 he released the DfE’s edtech strategy.

Mr Barton said that while it was “quite refreshing” to hear an education secretary talk about this, it “feels too early” to see what the outcome will be.

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Martin George

Martin George

Martin George is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @geomr

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