Visits to English Schools by Gavin Williamson


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Gavin Williamson

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Which schools has Gavin Willamson visited since his appointment as Secretary of State for Education?

On 1st February 2020, I made a Freedom of Information request to the Department for Education. I wanted to know which schools Gavin Williamson had visited since his appointment; to gather a sense of his work and if he is operating outside of the ‘academisation bubble’…

Freedom of Information

“Dear Department for Education, Please advise of the number of visits to early years, primary, secondary state schools, community and faith schools, academies, grammar, free and studio schools, colleges and universities by Gavin Williamson since he became Secretary of State for Education on 24 July 2019. If there are any schools visited overseas, please specify name, date of visit and country. I would like this data broken down by:

  1. Ofsted grading
  2. Type of school (including free school, grammar, studio etc)
  3. Region
  4. Date of visit
  5. Name of school.”

Department for Education response…

“I have dealt with your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. This data starts on 24th July 2019 and ends on 5th February 2020. A copy of the information requested; 4) Date of visit and 5) Name of school is attached in the format requested. Under section 21 of the Act, the Department is not required to provide information in response to a request if it is already reasonably accessible to you. The information you requested is available from the website get-information-schools.service.gov.uk and ukrlp.co.uk

Initial analysis

Since his appointment on 24th July 2019, Gavin Williamson has visited ~38 schools and colleges throughout the ~216 day period he has been in post. He has also visited 5 universities. I know Williamson’s key role is not to visit schools, but I have taken this into context.

If we remove the period of time Williamson could not visit schools and colleges during the 6-week summer holiday (although he visited 1 nursery during the summer), plus subtracting one week from the October 2019 and February 2020 half term, plus two weeks at Christmas (this equates a possible 10 weeks of the academic year). This means Gavin Williamson has visited 38 schools and colleges from a possible ~146 days in his position. If we also remove the weekends (40 total days) from the possible ‘school weeks’ Williamson could visit a school/college, this leaves 38 schools out of possible 106 days (over a 7 month period).

School visit ratio

Note, on three occasions Williamson visited four institutions in one day. This means that he has had to work very quickly to get between venues if he is to see any teaching and learning taking place during school hours:

  • 3rd October 2019 = 4 visits in one day
  • 9th October 2019 = 4 visits in one day
  • 11th October 2019 = 4 visits in one day
  • There are 6 other occasions where he has visited 3 settings in one day!

If we compare Williamson’s visits to others who have been in charge of education, based on when previous data was collected, we can work out his average ratio. Of course, the time frame of ‘being in position’ versus the date collected has to be considered. Nonetheless;

  • Nick Gibb has a 6.1 school visit ratio since May 2015 to the present day. (Collected 22.11.2018)
  • Damian Hinds has a 2.1 school visit ratio since January 2018 when he was appointed. (Collected 07.11.2018)
  • Since 1st January 2017, Amanda Spielman has a 0.1 schools per week ratio! (Collected on 11.12.2018)
  • Gavin Williamson, since being in position, has a school visit ratio of 2.7 schools per week.

Ofsted rating at the time of visit

Let’s break down the demographics of Williamson’s school visits, their type and Ofsted rating at the time of his visit. Firstly, the depth and accuracy of the DfE’s reporting is to be questioned. I do think this would be improved if I had asked or URNs (Unique Reference Numbers) instead of school names. For example, there are a lot of schools with ‘St. Mary’s’ in their name!

  • Number of Outstanding schools visited = 18 schools
  • Number of Good schools visited = 14 schools
  • Number of Requires Improvement schools visited = 3 schools 
  • Number of Inadequate schools visited = 0 schools 
  • Number of Special Measures schools visited = 0 schools (although some are historically before conversion)
  • Number of schools with no Ofsted rating visited = 3 schools; I need to check this over. Note, schools with no Ofsted rating are largely academy converters.

Types of school

  • Number of academy schools visited = 16 schools
  • Number of community schools visited = 3 schools (I suspect there are one or two more)
  • Number of 16-19 visited = 11 colleges, 
  • Number of early years visited = 2 schools, although some primary do have EYFS offer.
  • Number of ITT institutions visited = 1 training provider (excluding 5 universities).
  • Number of free schools visited = 3 schools
  • Number of pupil referral units visited = 2 schools

It is good to see Williamson has visited a range of settings, including some challenging schools, but there is still a clear bias towards academies from those in positions of policy.

You can download the letter and the dataset. Catch up on the blog next month when I reveal which schools Nick Gibb has visited since that awkward moment on television with Charlie Stayt in March 2019…


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