‘There will be a reckoning for DfE’s bully-boy tactics’

ASCL leader Geoff Barton warns there will be ‘consequences’ for the Department for Education’s handling of the end-of-term Covid arrangements
14th December 2020, 8:40pm
John Roberts

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‘There will be a reckoning for DfE’s bully-boy tactics’

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/there-will-be-reckoning-dfes-bully-boy-tactics
The Appointment Of New Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi Is An Opportunity For The Dfe, Says Ascl Leader Geoff Barton

A headteachers' leader has denounced the Department for Education's legal moves to stop schools from closing because of Covid as "disgraceful" and "bully-boy tactics".

Geoff Barton, Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) general secretary, told Tes tonight that there will be "a reckoning" and "consequences" for the way the DfE has threatened legal action against schools, trusts and councils that have planned to close early because of Covid concerns.


News: DfE orders council to back down and keep schools open

Related: Close schools early, says third London council

Politics: Starmer urges leaders to try to keep schools open


His comments came as the department indicated it was willing to take legal action to force Greenwich Council to withdraw its request for its schools to close doors for Christmas over Covid concerns. 

But tonight, as education secretary Gavin Williamson issued a legal order, the authority warned that it was too late to stop some schools closing. 

The DfE has previously raised the prospect of taking legal action against a school and a multi-academy trust, which had announced plans to close early or move to online learning in the week before Christmas because of Covid rates increasing.

Mr Barton said: "To have government that is constantly resorting to bully-boy tactics in response to people in public service who are simply trying to make decisions that are right for their community - it is pretty disgraceful.

"I think there will be reckoning after all of this. For regional school commissioners, some of whom have never set foot in a school in a leadership role, to try to intervene in school decisions in this way at a time like this will have consequences.

"The government's response has been completely tribal and it is completely unnecessary.

"Parents and communities will have long memories about this, and they will remember where they saw principled leadership and decision making rather than resorting to a robotic mantra that schools must stay open at all costs.

"As we go through Christmas, the costs could be incredibly high.

"If you are instructing schools, through legally threatening letters, that they must stay open, then the consequences could be significant in terms of cases and the rates of infection rising in the New Year. I think if that happens, some people will ask 'are you going to own responsibility for this?'"

 

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