SEFTON Central MP Bill Esterson has hit out at Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, saying the Mionister has ‘zero credibility’ following the exams and schools reopening fiascos.
Mr Esterson say’s it’s ‘remarkable’ that Mr Williamson is still in post while his officials had accepted responsibility for the department’s failure and resigned. The Head of Ofqual and the Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education both resigned but Mr Williamson stayed put.
Mr Esterson said: “Our head teachers and school leaders have worked tirelessly through lockdown and over the summer to make schools safe for pupils’ return.
“After the trauma of the exams fiasco, where thousands of students’ grades were unfairly downgraded, the Department for Education then decided that the Friday night before a bank holiday weekend, just five days before the start of the new term, was an appropriate time to release updated guidance.
“It is the last straw and just demonstrates that Gavin Williamson has zero credibility among staff or parents.
“School leaders in my constituency are telling me they were horrified to receive this new guidance late at night before the bank holiday weekend and that the guidance didn’t even make clear what was new.
“Then we hear Ofqual repeatedly warned the Minister that the algorithm for awarding exam grades would let some children and parents down, and that the Education Secretary cancelled the exams against Ofqual advice. In fact Ofqual warned Mr Williamson in March that the use of the algorithm was very much a last resort precisely because of the flaws it contained.
“It is incompetence on a grand scale, and it is remarkable that the Education Secretary is still in the post!”
The MP added: “The government has had months to consider how schools can safely operate. The unions have repeatedly asked for timely guidance and have offered to work with the government. But these offers to work together have been ignored by ministers and the end result is chaos and confusion.
“I have written to the Education Secretary to say that any further guidance should be released in a way that is planned and timely and less likely to impact on the well-being of school leaders. It should also be drawn up in collaboration with schools and unions.”
Mr Esterson said schools should be issued with guidance immediately regarding what will happen when there are outbreaks of Covid-19 or where there is a local lockdown.
He said: “We still haven’t seen the plan for how we will keep our schools safe in the event of Covid outbreaks among students or during local lockdowns. How will the government ensure that children’s education is not damaged further?”
Mr Williamson apologised or the exam fiasco claiming he was “incredibly sorry for the distress” caused to pupils. However, he has remained in post despite facing calls to resign both from outside the Conservative party and from within his own party.