David Johnston has now been appointed as Children’s Minister, replacing Claire Coutinho as she is appointed as the new UK’s Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) after less than a year in the role.
David Johnston becomes the seventh minister appointed in this role to oversee the SEND reforms, the fifth children’s minister in under two years and the tenth in a decade.
David was born on a council estate and went to a comprehensive school where only 21% passed any 5 GCSEs during his time there. His mother left school at 16 and got a job as soon as she could and his father left school at 14 and joined the army as soon as he could.
David was therefore the first in his family to go to university and he then spent the next 16 years before politics running organisations that help disadvantaged young people to get a better education and a good job. This included being Chief Executive of the Social Mobility Foundation, which he grew from a team of 3 people to a national charity with 7 offices across the UK serving around 7,000 young people. In 2018, David received an OBE for services to social mobility and education.
David was elected as MP for Wantage and Didcot in December 2019. He decided to enter politics as – although he voted to Leave in the EU referendum – he felt the issues he cared about were being neglected whilst the arguments over Brexit dominated everything. He lives in the Didcot area with his partner, Charlotte.
David was a Parliamentary Private Secretary at the Department for Education between 2021 and 2022, Parliamentary Private Secretary at the Department for Work and Pensions in 2022 and Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities between 2022 and 2023. He previously served on the Education Select Committee between 2020 and 2021.
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan says that Coutinho will be “fantastic” in the new role, adding that she was “looking forward to welcoming” Johnston to the department.
Joint headteacher at Frank Wise School in Oxfordshire, Simon Knight, 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.”