Schools minister Nick Gibb fears more regional schools commissioners could be poached for top education jobs after one was “headhunted” less than a year into his new role.

Paul Smith (pictured), regional schools commissioner (RSC) for Lancashire and West Yorkshire, has resigned to take up a new role. It is believed he will leave the post in December.

It is not known what Mr Smith’s new job is, with the Department for Education (DfE) remaining tight-lipped about the resignation.

However Mr Gibb, when quizzed about the departure during the education bill committee on Tuesday, said: “RSCs are very talented people. We are very grateful for the energy and enthusiasm Paul brought to his role and his contribution has been greatly valued.

“People of his talent are sought after in the education world, and I suspect many of the RSCs will be being approached by all kinds of education organisations because of their ability and talent.

“I hope that won’t happen. On this occasion it has happened and we’re very grateful for the tremendous work he’s carried out.”

Labour’s Kevin Brennan, who put Mr Gibb on the spot over the resignation after hearing a rumour during the committee’s lunch break, said: “I do congratulate him if he’s been poached by some other employer because of his great talent because that’s a wonderful thing.

“But the timing of it seems a bit odd as we are on the eve of completing the committee stage of the bill and are in the process of approving all these powers.

“What happens if RSCs start falling like nine pins?”

Mr Smith was paid between £110,000 and £114,999 – the lowest pay grade of all eight commissioners.

He took on the role in August last year after leaving his post as executive principal at Parbold Douglas Church of England Academy and Teaching School near Wigan, Greater Manchester.

A DfE spokesperson said: “The department is advertising for a replacement.”

The advert, which is now online, does not include a start date. But it shows shortlisted candidates would be interviewed in early September.

RSCs are the government’s “middle tier”, introduced as a new layer between individual academy trusts and the department.

They have a remit of monitoring the performance of academies in their area, making recommendations on free school applications and supporting academy conversions.