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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 May, 2005, 09:50 GMT 10:50 UK
Adviser Adonis made a minister
Andrew Adonis
Andrew Adonis will be a schools minister in the House of Lords
The Department for Education and Skills has an entirely new line-up of junior ministers.

The most controversial appointment is Downing Street policy adviser Andrew Adonis being made a peer and a junior education minister.

Jacqui Smith returns to the education department, where she will become minister for schools and deputy to Education Secretary Ruth Kelly.

Bill Rammell becomes the minister responsible for higher education.

After the defeat in the general election of the former education minister, Stephen Twigg, only Ruth Kelly remains from the previous education line-up.

'Unprecedented power'

And this third-term ministerial team now features three women in the top four posts in the department.

education ministers
Education Secretary: Ruth Kelly
Minister for Schools: Jacqui Smith
Minister for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education: Bill Rammell
Minister for Children, Young People and Families: Beverley Hughes
Parliamentary secretaries: Andrew Adonis (Schools), Phil Hope (Skills), Maria Eagle (Children, Young People and Families)

But the greatest attention is being paid to the appointment of Andrew Adonis - who will become Lord Adonis and a schools spokesperson for Labour in the House of Lords.

Associated with policies such as tuition fees, extending parental choice and city academies, Mr Adonis has been identified as an important influence on the prime minister's education plans.

And there will be close scrutiny as to whether this marks an acceleration of more radical plans to introduce more competition and diversity into the school system.

His appointment was welcomed by Ms Kelly, who commended Mr Adonis as "a man of immense intellect, passion, commitment to the cause of education and social justice".

She rejected as "nonsense" reports of disagreements over the education ministerial team - and promised that "standards of teaching in the classroom and standards of behaviour" would be her departmental priorities.

The decision to elevate the adviser to a minister has been attacked by the Liberal Democrat education spokesperson, Phil Willis, as an unacceptable placement for an unelected figure who wields "unprecedented power".

This was dismissed by senior Labour MP Barry Sheerman, who said that the appointment of Mr Adonis would be to the most junior ministerial post and would support the education team with an in-depth knowledge of the subject.

The incoming minister has worked as a Downing Street policy adviser since 1998. Mr Adonis has previously worked as a journalist and an academic at Oxford University.

He has edited a biography of the Labour politician and SDP founder Roy Jenkins, and was the co-author of A Class Act: Myth of Britain's Classless Society.

Agenda setting

The extent of Mr Adonis's influence over policy has long been controversial - and has been criticised by commentators such as Lord Hattersley.

Education unions have regarded him as something of an "ivory tower" thinker, detached from the realities of school life.

But his longstanding closeness to Labour's education plans is suggested in an article written by Mr Adonis for the Observer in 1996, the year before Tony Blair became prime minister.

This uncannily sketches out many of the educational policy battlegrounds that have faced Labour ministers during their subsequent years in office.

As a check-list he highlights the forthcoming importance of "standards, public-private partnership, higher expectations of teachers, the setting and selection of pupils by aptitude, vocational education, and decisive intervention to revive failing schools".

And, almost a decade before the dispute over tuition fees, he pointed to decisions which would be "fiendishly difficult in the fields of student finance [and] secondary school selection".

In the same article there are planks of policy that were still being repeated in the most recent election campaign - such as shifting education spending priorities away from universities and towards the youngest children "where it does most to reduce the deep anti-education culture of the underclass".

Now facing the implementation of higher student fees, wider vocational choice, all English secondary schools being made specialist and the boosting of early years services, he will have the challenge of putting the ideas into action.

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