According to the leaked messages from former UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Sir Gavin Williamson, who served as UK Education Secretary from 2019-21, accused teachers of looking for an “excuse” not to work during the pandemic.
In May 2020, which was 2 months after the UK went into lockdown, schools were preparing to open again. Williamson reached out to Hancock and asked for PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) to be provided to schools.
Williamson said this move was to ensure that schools didn’t have “a reason not to open”.
He went onto say: “All of them will but some will just want to say they can’t so they have an excuse to avoid having to teach, what joys!!!”
In the same month, Williamson publicly praised teachers by saying that they were “going above and beyond the call of duty”, adding: “You have simply been outstanding and we are so grateful for what you’ve done.”
Five months later, Hancock praised Williamson for deciding to delay A-Level exams due to the high spread of COVID-19.
“Cracking announcement today” Hancock wrote. “What a bunch of absolute arses the teaching unions are” Hancock added.
Williamson responded by saying “I know they really really do just hate work.”
Hancock replied with a bullseye emoji and two laughing emojis.
Dr Mary Bousted, who is the joint general secretary of the National Education Union, issued a response to the leaked messages. “Why am I utterly unsurprised to now have it absolutely confirmed that Gavin Williamson was unfit to be secretary of state for education?”
Williamson issued a statement on Wednesday confirming that his comments related to unions, and not teachers.
“Further to reports in the Telegraph and other outlets, I wish to clarify that these messages were about some unions and not teachers. As demonstrated in the exchange, I was responding regarding unions.”
“I have the utmost respect for teachers who work tirelessly to support students. During the pandemic, teachers went above and beyond during very challenging times and very much continue to do so.”
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