The education secretary has failed to apologise to school leaders for “causing undue stress and pressure” with “repeated last-minute communications” on Covid decisions.
Asked during a Commons Education Committee hearing this afternoon whether he would apologise to the National Education Union teaching union and school leaders for not heeding their advice on school closures, and for repeated last-minute communications “causing undue stress and pressure“, Mr Williamson did not give a direct answer.
The education secretary was asked: “Will you apologise to the National Education Union and school leaders for not heeding to their advice on safety and closure of schools, and for the repeated last-minute communications given to them, causing undue stress and pressure on their resources and their mental health?”
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He responded: “We always want to be in a situation of having pupils in school. People who work in schools want to be welcoming children into the classroom because they realise that, actually, that’s the best way of imparting their knowledge, imparting their enthusiasm, imparting their passion for the subjects [they] teach to the children.
“So being passionate about having children in schools, I think, is absolutely a vital part of being education secretary and I will continue to work with headteachers, teachers, all those who work in the education sectors and unions to ensure that all children are welcomed back into schools at the earliest possible moment.
“We all want to see schools open and with children having the benefit of being in the classroom.”
The government has made a series of late U-turns on crucial decisions concerning schools during the pandemic.
On Monday 4 January, Boris Johnson announced that schools and colleges across England would close under the third national lockdown. These measures came into effect a day after the new term started.
Just days previously, the government was insisting that the majority of primaries would open as normal for the spring term. On 31 December, the education secretary said he was “absolutely confident” that there would be no further delays to reopening.