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Teaching union hits back at Education Secretary Gavin Williamson over his ‘lamentable performance’ during Covid crisis

THE government’s attack on teaching unions was slammed as a “clumsy attempt” to divert attention from its poor performance during the Covid-19 crisis today.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has vowed to end the Tories’ “softly, softly” approach to teaching unions and to get all children back in school by September “come what may,” it was reported at the weekend.

He also slammed the National Education Union (NEU) — churlishly branding it the No Education Union — and said that Tory MP William Wragg “is their only sane member,” according to a source in the Daily Mail.

NEU joint general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: “This is a clumsy attempt by Gavin Williamson to divert attention from his own lamentable performance as Education Secretary — and his failure to work with the profession to achieve the safe opening of schools, which the NEU wants and is working hard towards.

“The NEU has consistently said that we want to see as safe a wider reopening of schools as possible. What we have asked for is sight of plans for wider reopening and the scientific evidence that backs them. This is hardly obstructive. 

“Headteachers are crying out for clear guidance for September and do not want a repeat of the piecemeal information they have been provided with so far.

“We are presuming the government will have the foresight to also include in its guidance what to do in the occurrence of a second spike nationally or regionally.”

The row came amid speculation over the motive Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s sacking of shadow education secretary Rebecca Long Bailey, after she shared a wide-ranging Independent interview with socialist actor Maxine Peake.

It mentioned that police in Minnesota, where African-American man George Floyd was killed by white officers, had learned violent tactics from the Israeli secret services. Mr Starmer said he had sacked Ms Long Bailey to rebuild trust with Jewish people.

Ms Long Bailey had supported the NEU in calls to delay the return of children to schools until robust safety measures are in place.

Former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, responding to reports that Mr Starmer’s allies are pushing for a stronger stance against teaching unions, tweeted on Saturday: “Could failing to ‘stand up to the teacher unions’ be the real reason [Ms Long Bailey] was sacked?”

Mr Starmer appointed Kate Green as his new shadow education secretary on Saturday.

After quitting as Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow minister for women and equalities, she went on to chair former Pontypridd MP Owen Smith’s failed leadership bid in 2016.

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