Analysis: After a series of failures, the education minister lost the confidence of teachers and parents.
“The most incompetent, ineffective and incompetent education minister in living memory.”
That was the Yorkshire Post verdict this week on one of the county’s sons, Gavin Williamson, a native of Scarborough, in a frank editorial calling on him to resign or be fired.
Similarly scathing was A Times editorial. Mr. Williamson, by far the weakest performer in the understaffed cabinet, seems to have already compromised the government’s own future.
Britain cannot afford for him to be so reckless with the future of its children.”
The education secretary cut a forlorn figure early on Wednesday morning as he made his way to the Department for Education (DfE) and was asked by a Sky television crew if he wanted to resign.
His appearance later that day before MPs in the House of Commons to clarify the latest in a catalog of delayed choices, catastrophic backtracking and humiliating U-turns would have done nothing to improve his shattered image.
Yet it could all have been so different. His presence at the DfE coincided with a much-needed raise in school investment when Williamson took office in 2019, a new plan to improve educational success and a new commitment to further education and vocational and technical skills.
Then the pandemic of Covid struck, and while there was some initial support for an unprecedented challenge facing a secretary of state, it quickly evaporated.
From examinations and exam results to free school meals, BTecs and failed school openings, the about-face came quickly and furious, to the point that the education secretary is regularly compared to the pathetic TV cartoon character Frank Spencer from the 1970s sitcom Some Mothers Do ‘Ave’ Em.
With his leadership, like Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, even the most moderate school leaders and business leaders are increasingly upset.
We would all agree that he was offered a rough hand,”We would all admit he’s been dealt a difficult hand,”but the people I serve are like that.”but so are the people I represent.”
“The most important ingredient in leadership is being able to take people with you.” So often, Barton said, unions were seen as part of the issue rather than part of the solution.
“The frustrating thing about Gavin Williamson is that too often there’s a political tribalism, and this is probably not the best time to show tribalism.”
“Mary Bousted, the National Education Association’s joint general secretary and Williamson’s outspoken critic, said, “He never addressed the issue.
I still have a great deal of sympathy for the education secretary of state, because it’s a huge sector.
With a lot of technical challenges, it is highly complicated.
I’ve worked in education for 40 years, so I should know a lot about it.
But what an undersecretary should expect from you is that he does his homework, learns a lot, and knows the job. Only he hasn’t.
“You’re not going to get anything right in a situation like a pandemic.
But making the most important decisions as best you can is very important.
She also lamented that Williamson was too concerned with ideology instead of recognizing the effect on the ground in classrooms, among teachers and parents.
One of his biggest failures, Bousted said, was the decision to take legal action to compel schools in Covid hotspots to remain open and to demand that 3 million kids return to elementary school this week, literally hours before the prime minister declared a nationwide lockdown including schools.
Just last month, Williamson’s cast-iron promise that examinations will be conducted this summer led to yet more eggs on his forehead. The only possible reason, one critic said, for his continuing leadership in the DfE is that he is a “useful scapegoat” who takes criticism from the prime minister.
“Williamson’s ability, if it is an ability, is to take away people’s will to live,” a former colleague who preferred to remain anonymous said. “He drains energy from everyone and everything around him. He’s a vacuum, a black hole, a void.”
Former Secretary of Labor Education Estelle Morris knows a thing or two about the job’s struggles and when to step down.
Almost two decades ago, after n, n