The DfE could lose up to a sixth of its workforce as civil servants are redeployed to prepare for a possible no-deal Brexit, Tes can reveal.
Cabinet Office officials are in talks about moving staff from government departments such as the DfE that are less affected by Brexit to those such as transport that are on the front line.
Tes has been told that the “absolute upper limit” of the DfE number of staff who could be redeployed was 1,000.
This would represent about a sixth of the 6,040 full-time-equivalent staff that government statistics show were employed by the DfE in September 2018.
However, Tes has been told the talks are in “early days”, numbers have yet to be decided, and 1,000 is not the starting point for the department’s discussions with the Cabinet Office.
It is not known which teams within the DfE would lose staff, but Tes has been told that essential services, such as funding schools, would continue, and key priorities of education secretary Damian Hinds would also be protected.
This would be likely to see work to convert struggling schools into academies prioritised over work to convert schools that are performing well.
DfE initiatives that are at an advanced stage, such as its teacher recruitment and retention strategy, are said to be likely to go ahead, but those that are planned for the medium term could be delayed or stopped, depending on what happens with Brexit.
Last month, it was reported that the introduction of the T level technical qualifications could be shelved to “reprioritise” government funding to pay for preparations for a no-deal Brexit.
Mr Hinds has been a high-profile minister in the media, warning about the implications of a no-deal Brexit and urging MPs to support Theresa May’s transition deal with the EU.
The DfE told Tes that the civil service is focused on delivering the government’s most pressing priorities, and that it was only sensible that it makes use of the resources and expertise available to make sure the UK is prepared for all Brexit scenarios on exit day.
It said that this includes departments sharing staff and working together on joint projects.
However, it refused to comment on what described as "speculation" about the effect on the DfE itself.