DfE roles defined in caretaker government

The responsibilities of three junior ministers in the Department for Education were revealed on 12 July

The government has outlined the responsibilities of three ministerial appointees to the Department for Education (DfE).

Andrea Jenkyns was named parliamentary undersecretary of state for skills, and further and higher education, combining the responsibilities of two previous ministers.

Brendan Clarke-Smith becomes a junior minister for children and families. The previous incumbent, Will Quince, resigned from the government on 6 July. He returns to the DfE occupying a more high-profile role as minister of state for school standards. Diana Barran, a Tory peer, remains minister for the school system. James Cleverly was named education secretary on 7 July.

Ms Jenkyns, MP for Morley and Outwood, will be responsible for T-levels, the review of level 3 and below qualifications, universities, colleges, apprenticeships, Institutes of Technology and the regional skills agenda.

The parliamentary undersecretary of state for skills, further and higher education combines the roles and responsibilities of two previous ministers. Jenkyns has a lower ministerial standing than predecessor Michelle Donelan who – as minister of state for HE and FE – also attended cabinet. Donelan was promoted to secretary of state on 5 July before resigning in protest over Boris Johnson’s leadership on 7 July. Skills minister Alex Burghart resigned in the same wave of resignations on 6 July.

Jenkyns and Clarke-Smith are Johnson loyalists.

The tenures of all the appointees could prove short, as with a new prime minister anticipated on 5 September, an extensive reshuffle is to be expected.

Jenkyns caused a Twitter furore after a video emerged of her raising her middle finger at a crowd of people near Downing Street. She said the “baying mob” outside the gates were shouting abuse. She said she had “reached the end of my tether” following “huge amounts of abuse” over the years, acknowledging she “should have shown more composure but am only human”.

In October 2020, Clarke-Smith aroused consternation when, during a debate about extending free school meals through the Easter holidays, he suggested the proposal was tantamount to “nationalising children”. In his speech, the Bassetlaw MP said: “We must focus on breaking the cycle in which the first reaction is to look to the state. It is a vicious circle.”

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