Gavin Williamson has hit back back at criticism of his “holiday,” saying he deliberately stayed in UK to help solve exams chaos and prepare for pupils to return to school.
The Education Secretary was taken to task at the weekend over his decision to spend time with his family in his hometown of Scarborough in the week before the A-level grading crisis broke, forcing one of the biggest u-turns since Boris Johnson won the election.
In a tweet, Mr Williamson responded by saying he had cancelled a family holiday abroad this year to “focus on the challenges Covid-19 created for the education sector.”
He added: “Over the Summer, I went to see family in Scarborough for the first time since lockdown and while there I was in constant communication with the Department.”
His defence came as it also emerged that one of his deputies, Gillian Keegan, an education minister, had spent two weeks on holiday in an alpine chalet in Courchevel, posting pictures of her time on Instagram during the A-level crisis.
Sources, however, said there was a duty minister and she had remained in contact with her departmental office and continued to work on Government business while abroad.
Ministers reportedly believe that Mr Williamson has “one last chance” to save his Cabinet career by ensuring schools reopen next week.
One minister said Mr Williamson needed to show he had a “hands-on grip of your department”, while another said that reopening schools would be “his last chance.”
The under-fire Education Secretary has said he is committed to doing ‘everything necessary’ to ensure pupils are back in the classroom for September, following the fiasco over A-Level, GCSE and BTEC grades.
But union leaders yesterday sought to exploit his weakness by claiming that they had deliberately refrained from calling for his resignation because “we don’t want him to go because he’s a very useful idiot for us.”
A Government source responded by saying: “Getting all children back to school at the start of term is a national priority. That’s what the unions should be focused on rather than playing political games.”
Sir Keir Starmer also warned the Prime Minister’s commitment to getting children back in school was at“serious risk” after a “week of chaos.”
He said that while he supported the decision to get children back to school the Government had wasted precious time “clearing up a mess of the Government’s own making.”
The Labour leader said: “Ministers should have spent the summer implementing a national plan to get all children back to school.
“Instead, the last two weeks have been wasted clearing up a mess of the Government’s own making over exam results.”