Teachers praised as 'lions' led by DfE 'donkeys'

In response to Labour attack, education minister says the government has 'put education first' during the pandemic
8th December 2020, 5:00am
Catherine Lough

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Teachers praised as 'lions' led by DfE 'donkeys'

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/teachers-praised-lions-led-dfe-donkeys
Coronavirus & Schools: Teachers Are 'lions' Led By Dfe 'donkeys', Says Labour's Wes Streeting

Shadow schools minister Wes Streeting has praised school staff as "lions led by donkeys" in a fractious parliamentary debate.

Speaking in the Westminster Hall debate on the impact of Covid-19 on schools and exams yesterday evening, Mr Streeting said he wanted to say an "enormous thank you to all of the staff, school leaders, teachers and support staff who have been busting a gut to keep pupils learning".

The Labour MP for Ilford North added: "When I compare their efforts to the work of the education secretary, they are truly lions led by donkeys."


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The debate was held in response to three petitions.

One, with over 400,000 signatures, called for the closure of schools and colleges due to increased coronavirus cases, while a second petition with over 168,000 signatures called for the cancellation of GCSEs and A levels in 2021.

Coronavirus: Government 'has failed England's school pupils'

A third petition called for a two-week lockdown with schools moving to online learning from 9 December, so that students and staff could visit relatives safely over the holidays.

"The government have failed England's school pupils, they've failed on exams, failed on attendance, failed to protect the vulnerable, failed on home learning and failed on funding," Mr Streeting said.

"We've seen, I'm afraid, having not learned the lessons of last summer's disaster, dither and delay. Surely the one lesson you would take out of the exams debacle would be to make sure that preparations were made for the coming set of exams."

He said that the new expert advisory group on differential learning loss was "obvious stuff" and that the measures announced by the government to mitigate the pandemic's impact on exam students were not "targeted" with "no real focus on tackling the severe disadvantage that some have faced disproportionately".

Gillian Keegan, the apprenticeships and skills minister, said: "When developing our approach, we have always kept the interest for both students and teachers as our priority, and since this pandemic began, as a government, we have rightly put education first and we will continue to do so.

"We cannot and must not let Covid destroy this year of education, which is why we have taken steps to keep schools and colleges open and exams on track."

Jonathan Gullis, Conservative MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, who was leading the debate, said Mr Streeting's comments that students should see exam topics in advance by the start of term did not take into account how exam boards would need time to prepare them for different subjects.

Saying he looked forward to "sparring" with Mr Streeting, Mr Gullis said: "When it comes to lions led by donkeys, I enjoy that line from when I was teaching history.

"I thought at one moment we were talking about the NEU [teaching union] leading the leader of the opposition with regard to his constant non-committal in June over whether or not schools should be open or not."

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