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, 10:33

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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 Clare Howard, chief executive of specialist college body Natspec, said: “It is an unenviable achievement to become the fifth children’s minister in less than two years and the seventh to oversee the government’s landmark SEND reforms.

“The government needs to move away from its merry-go-round approach to governance – previous ministerial changes have led to delays in addressing serious issues, and those providing education and training to young people with SEND desperately need stability, effective leadership and prompt action to address these long-standing issues.”

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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