PM's schools plan had 'absolutely no detail whatsoever'

Once again, Boris Johnson has won headlines for a schools plan lacking consultation and devoid of detail, writes William Stewart

William Stewart

Gavin Williamson

You could understand it if Gavin Williamson was starting to feel just a teensy bit fed up with his boss.

Our education secretary gives every impression of being a super loyal cabinet minister, but there must be limits to what even the most eager to please can take.

One day he’s in Parliament, making a dogged, but ultimately doomed, attempt to put a positive spin on an embarrassing climbdown (it can’t be much fun having to explain why an ambitious education plan rushed out from 10 Downing Street without any attempt to consult has been dropped).

Then blow me if the very next day, No 10 hasn’t rushed out another ambitious education plan without any attempt to consult.

Massive: PM promises a ‘huge summer of catch up' 

Climbdown: Summer return for all primary pupils dropped

'Astonishing': Ministers condemned over school openings

You can imagine Mr Williamson putting his feet up yesterday teatime, satisfied that his parliamentary ordeal was over and that he had made the best of a bad job.

Figuring he deserves a quick break, he sips his cuppa, flicks on the TV and there stands Boris Johnson in all his glory with a plan…for…education. And it’s a big one.

It’s going to be “huge”. It’s going to be “massive,” says a prime minister managing to sound hesitant and Trumpian all at the same time.

And the punchline for our education secretary is that he, Gavin Williamson, will be in charge of making the summer plan happen – and according to the PM “will be announcing and setting out a lot more next week about the catch-up programme”.

Next week? That’s just three working days away. Mr Williamson’s coffee drops on the floor as he turns away from the TV and puts his head in his hands.

I jest, of course. Boris Johnson must have let his education secretary know before he announced the summer’s “massive catch-up operation” for schools. He must have done. Surely he would…wouldn’t he?

Except that a day earlier, when Mr Williamson was asked in Parliament about increasing resources for “summer schemes”, the education secretary almost seemed to play down their importance, saying: “We need to lift our eyes higher and to be more ambitious.”

The inner workings of the government on this are likely to remain opaque for some time. But what Tes has been told is that ministers had a meeting with all the teaching and school support staff unions and representatives of academy trusts and governors only hours before Mr Johnson’s big reveal and no mention was made of the “huge” plan. 

And, to be frank, very little emerged when the announcement was actually made. As a cuttingly sarcastic Vic Goddard, co-head of Passmores Academy in Harlow, put it this morning: “I love a headline. I love making an announcement with absolutely no detail whatsoever.”

Tuesday’s admission of defeat for the PM’s last big plan for schools was largely seen as being a result of a failure to discuss it properly with those who knew whether it would work before making the big announcement.

Now, incredibly, Mr Johnson appears to have done exactly the same thing again.

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William Stewart

William Stewart

William Stewart is News editor at Tes

Find me on Twitter @wstewarttes

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