Former Daily Express political correspondent Gabriel Milland joins as head of news at the end of September, from Policy Exchange.
The Tory-leaning Policy Exchange was once named by the New Statesman as David Cameron's ‘favourite think-tank’, and was formerly chaired by education secretary Michael Gove.
Milland is one of a number of public sector appointments at the department with Tory roots. In June, one of Gove’s former special advisers Elena Narozanski was brought back into the department as a civil service speechwriter.
The DfE has also appointed director of comms James Frayne, a former campaigns director at the Taxpayers' Alliance, which has links to the Conservative Party.
A DfE spokeswoman said: ‘There was a strong competition for this post and the best candidate was appointed on merit. All civil servants have to comply with the Civil Service Code, which includes political impartiality.’
Before working at Policy Exchange, Milland was head of media at the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre.
The head of news role has grown to include oversight of speechwriting and internal comms, due to a restructuring in the comms division that reduces senior management roles and takes the number of teams from five to three. The job was advertised as including these responsibilities.
Milland will report to Frayne and will oversee a press office of 15. This is likely to increase once DfE takes on responsibility for press work for its new executive agencies the Teaching Agency, the Education Funding Agency and the Standards and Testing Agency.
Milland replaces Lee Bailey, who left in May without a new role lined up, having taken voluntary redundancy.