British prime minister Theresa May has removed Justine Greening as Education Secretary and replaced her with a Catholic supporter of faith schools, raising hopes the government will honour its pledge to scrap the much-criticised admissions cap.
Damian Hinds, the Member of Parliament for East Hampshire, was educated at St Ambrose College, a Catholic grammar school in Cheshire, before attending Oxford University. He is a long-time supporter of faith schools.
The Catholic Church in England will likely welcome his appointment, after his predecessor refused to remove the admissions cap which effectively prevents the Church from opening new schools.
Since becoming prime minister, Theresa May has vowed to scrap the rules which state new faith schools must admit at least 50 per cent of students from other faiths. The Church has stated that this regulation forces it to violate Canon Law, as it means over-subscribed Catholic schools would have to turn away children because they were Catholic.
The Conservatives even included the pledge in their 2017 election manifesto, but the cap remained in place while Ms Greening was Education Secretary.
Damian Hinds has previously called for the government to drop the faith school cap, saying in a 2014 debate that Catholic schools would lose their “distinctive character” if the policy remains. As Education Secretary, he now has free rein to remove the cap at will.
Justine Greening has also left her role as Minister for Equalities, in which she proposed making it easier to change legal gender by removing the requirement for a medical diagnosis.
She also called on religious groups to “keep up” with public opinion on same-sex marriage.