East Hampshire's MP has admitted he’s got massive shoes to fill after landing a ministerial job at the Department for Education.
Damian Hinds has spoken of his joy and honour after returning to the DfE as Schools Minister following last week’s cabinet reshuffle.
The junior role might be considered a step down for the Tory having served as Secretary of State for Education under Theresa May. But he’s not smarting for a return and has compared the move from the Ministry of Justice to the DfE akin to “coming home”.
He said: “I think it’s an honour and a privilege to do any of these jobs on behalf of the public.
“With this particular job you have responsibility for the education of our children and given you’re working with the most amazing professionals in teaching it’s the most immense honour.”
Mr Hinds, who was Prisons Minister until last week, has a tough act to follow as his predecessor Nick Gibb was the longstanding holder of the schools portfolio having started in 2010.
Mr Hinds said: “They are massive, massive shoes to fill.
“Nick has worked in this job for years and has really dedicated his working life to education and schools.
“Nick has quite possibly been to more schools than any other human being. He knows a lot about the subject and has been really instrumental in working through reforms.
“The British civil service are the most professional body of people you could hope to meet,” said Damian when asked about how ministers and departmental staff cope with a transition.
“It is a massive upheaval for them when you have a government reshuffle and suddenly a lot of the personnel changes but you would never guess it from your interaction with them.
“The process works incredibly smoothly and it’s been remarkable. Coming back here was very nice because I know a lot of people at the DfE.”
Mr Hinds returns at a time of tight budgets and high inflation and he accepts that schools have not been insulated from either. But he called education “his first passion” and says he is determined to help and see first-hand the amazing work done by teachers in East Hampshire and further afield.
He said: “There are always pressures on budgets because everyone wants to do the very best for the children but there’s more money in education than ever before.
“On the very first night I was selected as a parliamentary candidate, back in 2007, I was asked one day what job would I really like in government.
“At that point all I wanted was just to get elected but I thought if all goes well then I would really like to work as a minister in education, and that has been true ever since.
“Education has always been my first passion and I’m thrilled that the Prime Minister has asked me to do this.
“I will work really hard at it, and will do my very best because it’s incredibly important work supporting schools and teachers and the education of the next generation.”