One of the changes that the Prime Minister managed to make during her recent cabinet reshuffle was the role of Secretary of State for Education. Out went Justine Greening, and in comes Damian Hinds – MP for East Hampshire. So, who is Damian Hinds? What’s his background? What changes is he likely to make in this new position?
A Catholic Grammar School boy, he attended Oxford University (sound familiar?), and studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics. All very normal (too normal?) for someone in frontline politics. After university, according to LinkedIn, he went into hotel management and then strategy consulting – the vaguest job description ever devised.
Although unsuccessful in the 2005 election, in 2010 he was elected as an MP, and during his first speech in Parliament spoke highly of the co-operation between schools in his constituency and of Pupil Premium, that was being introduced at the time.
He is a backer of faith schools, as well as speaking fondly about them in Parliament, he’s recently introduced scrapping the cap on the proportion of children that they can take in from one faith. He said of Catholic schools in 2014:
“On the key point of whether Catholic schools are some sort of filtering device for middle-class, wealthy and bright kids, the answer is no. That would be a fundamental misunderstanding of the demographic profile of this country’s Catholic population, the location of those schools and the communities that they served…”
A loyal MP, Damian Hinds has voted with the government on all of their flagship education policies – Academisation, raising tuition fees, ending EMA, and removing the need for teachers to have Qualified Status. He has not rebelled against his party since the latest election, but has supported an elected House of Lords, and has voted against investigations into the Iraq War.
He backs social mobility, and the spread of opportunities across the whole population – at least with his words – though some might question his commitment to equality in education, given this quote taken from a volume edited by David Skelton:
“If we are serious about nurturing outstanding talent, really equalising the odds with the independent sector, we have to think radically. There is no appetite in the country for a wholesale return to academic selection at 11, for good reasons, but why not have at least one unashamedly academically elite state school in each county or major conurbation?”
In regards to his personal life, the new Education Secretary has three children – a criticism of the recently departed Justine Greening was that she had none, lessening her experience of schools. His wife, Jacqui Morel, is a teacher.