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Has Williamson gone for good?

Teacher ROBERT POOLE reflects on the top 10 ‘greatest hits ’of the erstwhile education secretary

DURING the last weeks of the summer holidays that familiar feeling of dread starts setting in.

The back-to-school adverts are up in the shops and I’m resisting temptation to check my work emails.

I start counting down the days of my holidays I have left and start to panic that I have wasted my precious time.

Should I cram in another day out to a packed tourist attraction? Should I start to learn Latin just in case? Should I finally get around to the DIY I promised I would do over the summer when I had more time? Should I … start to plan lessons for the start of term?

I’m sure this is a familiar feeling to a lot of education professionals.

This year there was of course an added layer of anxiety. On top of the worry that Ofsted might come a-knocking or that the senior leadership team will decide that what is really needed is a learning walk there is the uncertainty around Covid-19.

Deaths from Covid are still averaging 100 a day across the UK, and cases are expected to rise as schools return.

This is likely to coincide with a fading of immunity as we are being told that studies show that levels fall after six months. 

Fast forward two weeks and I am well and truly back into the swing of things.

Although my days are packed with admin tasks such as writing out seating plans, organising books and trying to remember passwords, I do enjoy the start of a new school year.

Year 7 have arrived and they are fresh and eager to learn after a disrupted end to their primary school years, and it always feels like a fresh start.

Added to that we have the extra bonus this year of learning that the education secretary has been sacked! Or reshuffled or whatever the Westminster terminology is.

I know the new guy will be equally as bad or, if it is even possible, worse.

But, for now, education professionals across the land can do a little dance of joy to know that Williamson is gone — perhaps for good.

It would be remiss of me to not reflect on the illustrious record of the former secretary of state for education, so here are some of his top hits — cue Top of The Pops theme song.

At number 10 is the time that Williamson thought it appropriate as education secretary to keep a whip on his desk. 

New in at number 9 — when he confused Maro Itoje with Marcus Rashford despite them looking nothing alike and not even playing the same sport. 

The time he turned down the offer of free broadband for disadvantaged children — perhaps fearing that this was “broadband communism” — is my number 8.

For number 7 we go way back to the heady days of 2011, before he was even education secretary, Williamson was hell-bent on ruining the lives of our youngsters, when he voted to increase tuition fees and scrap education maintenance allowance.

Number 6 is when despite being told that schools lacked adequate ventilation and him having all summer to sort it out he did … absolutely nothing (new lockdown here we come!)

At number 5 is when Williamson refused to shut schools, I caught Covid and couldn’t smell anything for a week — not even coffee (that’s a bit of a personal one perhaps).

The repeated flip-flopping over feeding hungry kids: we’re feeding them, we’re starving them, no … we’re feeding them, is at number 4. 

At number 3 is the time when schools, ravaged by a deadly virus, were threatened with being sued unless they stayed open.

Close on its heels is number 2, the time a few weeks later when he told schoolkids to return to school after the Christmas holidays for one day before closing them again because they were being ravaged by a deadly virus. Yes, even the schools he had threatened to sue.

But at number 1 we have the fact that under his watch an algorithm that was used to assign grades to pupils. This algorithm somehow managed to favour the children of the rich and wealthy and penalise poor kids. 

Only time will tell how well his replacement, Nadhim Zahawi, will do, but I presume he will be as useless and callous as his predecessors.

Like Williamson, Zahawi, former minister for taking the credit for the NHS’s vaccine rollout, voted to increase tuition fees, cut education maintenance allowance and voted against free school meals for hungry children over the holidays.

Already he has failed to turn up at a school prize-giving event on his first day in his new role.

Zahawi claims that poor parents “prefer” to pay for school meals — this coming from the man who claimed nearly six grand in expenses … to heat his horses’ stables.


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