Politics, SEND

David Johnston appointed children’s minister as Coutinho promoted

He becomes the seventh minister to oversee the important SEND reforms

He becomes the seventh minister to oversee the important SEND reforms

31 Aug 2023, 10:24

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Former education committee member David Johnston has been appointed children’s minister after Claire Coutinho was promoted in today’s mini reshuffle.

Johnston, the MP for Wantage, becomes the fifth children’s minister in just under two years.

The post also has responsibility for the important SEND reforms, which are finally set to be trialled in chosen council areas before being rolled out across the country in a few years.

He becomes the seventh children’s minister since a landmark review to reform the broken system was launched in 2019.

Other responsibilities of the post include children in care, mental health, alternative provision, behaviour and school attendance.

Coutinho has been promoted to energy and net-zero secretary. She is known as an ally of prime minister Rishi Sunak and worked as a special adviser at the Treasury while he was the Chancellor.

She is thought to be the first MP from the 2019 election cohort to hold a seat in cabinet.

Education secretary Gillian Keegan tweeted that Coutinho will be “fantastic” in the new role, adding she was “looking forward to welcoming” Johnston to her department.

But Simon Knight, joint headteacher at Frank Wise School in Oxfordshire, said the latest ministerial change shows “an enactment of utter ambivalence towards children with SEND.

“How are things supposed to improve if we continue to have short term leadership. So utterly frustrating.”

Tom Richmond, director of the EDSK think tank, added: “I think the reforms are ‘important’, but I’m starting to think that the government disagrees.”

What do we know about David Johnston?

Like Coutinho, Johnston became an MP in the 2019 election. He served on the education select committee from March 2020 until October 2021.

He was then parliamentary private secretary at the Department for Education for ten months before resigning in July last year in protest against Boris Johnson’s premiership.

Before becoming an MP, Johnston was chief executive of the Social Mobility Foundation for more than 10 years, and also served on the Social Mobility Commission.

He was appointed an OBE in 2018 for services to social mobility and education.

According to Wikipedia, Johnston has held governor posts at Sir George Monoux Sixth Form College, where he attended as a pupil, and Pimlico Academy, founded by former academies minister Lord Nash.

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