Jonathan Slater, the current head of the powerful Economic and Domestic Affairs Secretariat, is leaving the Cabinet Office after six months in the job to become the new permanent secretary of the Department for Education.
Slater has been director general of EDS since October 2015. The secretariat gives policy advice to the prime minister and the cabinet on the government's key domestic priorities, and oversees the running of the ten "Implementation Taskforces" launched by David Cameron in the wake of last year's general election to try and coordinate policy and hold departments to account for delivery.
Slater will take up the top job at the Department for Education on May 3, the DfE has announced, after an open competition to replace perm sec Chris Wormald, who is on the move to the Department of Health.
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Announcing Slater's appointment, cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood said he would be "sorry to see Jonathan leaving the Cabinet Office so soon", but said the incoming DfE chief had " a real passion for education and helping all children to fulfil their potential".
Heywood added: "I know he will do a great job at the Department for Education helping to support and deliver the government’s reform agenda. I wish him every success in building on the great work of Chris Wormald."
Commenting on his new role at the DfE, Slater said in a statement: "It’s a tremendous honour to have been given the opportunity to lead this wonderful department, supporting [education secretary] Nicky Morgan and her ministerial teams in their efforts to give all of our children the very best education, protection and opportunity possible. And to drive a really ambitious equalities agenda right across government.
"I’ve had a great time in the Cabinet Office, working with many brilliant people doing important work. But I can’t wait to get stuck in to my new role, and to start meeting my new talented and committed DfE colleagues and our many partners across the country."
Slater's previous government roles include a stint as director general of head office and commissioning services at the Ministry of Defence, where he led the coalition's Defence Reform programme. He was also a DG at the Ministry of Justice from 2007-2011, and served as chief executive of the now-abolished Office of Criminal Justice Reform.
Outside of central government, the York-educated Slater spent three years as deputy chief executive and director of education for Islington council.
The Department for Education is currently pressing ahead with its plan to require all schools in England to convert to independent, state-funded academies by 2022. The move will end any role for local authorities in the running of schools.
DfE's current perm sec Wormald last month apologised to MPs after the publication of his department's yearly accounts had to be delayed because of the "sheer scale" of the changes required by the academies programme.