What would it be like if the Secretary of State for Education were your headteacher?
Let’s consider some of the policies published under Gavin Williamson and match his equivalent behaviour as if he were the headteacher of your school.
I could write a thesis here, but I’m going to be concise and focus on Williamson’s leadership over the last 3 months, rather than from his appointment in July 2019. I’m frustrated when I need to turn towards politics, but when injustice in education becomes unbearable, I have to speak up.
1. Exams fiasco
In August 2020, Gavin Williamson said Ofqual’s algorithm recommendations were the fairest model for all students. Yet days later, he was “incredibly sorry for the distress” caused to pupils after having to make a U-turn in how A-levels and GCSEs are graded. He even stopped his summer holiday to deal with the national outcry and explain his silence; and this after he admitted he was unaware of the situation.
Two months later, he’s back stating exams are the fairest way of judging performance. It’s taken me 25 years to realise this is not the case. How we can say the opposite after one year working in education? I have no idea.
This is equivalent to a headteacher who disappears during the summer holidays and leaves the rest of the leadership team to deal with ‘results day’ at school, and any potential aftermath. It does happen!
2. Poverty and free school meals
Before the summer, Gavin Williamson came under fire to fund free school meals over the summer holidays to some of our poorest pupils across England. It took weeks for the issue to be resolved. During a pandemic too!
Today as I write, “the government in England has rejected calls to extend a voucher scheme for children to receive free school meals over the half-term and winter holidays.” This, after months of headaches for headteachers, trying in earnest to unlock the terrible Edenred voucher scheme, with many reports of teachers paying out of their own pocket. Note, only 5 Conservative MPs voted against the policy.
This is equivalent to a headteacher who announces redundancies on the last day of term. The decision is planned and deliberate to avoid minimum exposure and maximum gain.
3. Teacher pay and recruitment
A bit like Groundhog Day, in January 2020 it was announced that teachers would get a “pay rise in an attempt to boost recruitment.” In July 2020, Williamson revealed a “3.1 per cent increase in the overall pay” for 2020-21 – which will be funded by schools again. N.b. Academies and free schools can set their own scales, as can Wales for the first time.
The pandemic has also seen a huge spike in teacher applications like no other year. This, despite the Department for Education having missed recruitment targets for the past seven years. How long before Williamson claims his leadership made the difference?
This is equivalent to a headteacher who takes orders from a CEO. They’re not actually in charge of any strategic decisions, only the day-to-day running of the school.
Gavin Williamson was appointed on 24th July 2019 with an average tenure of 801 days. Therefore, Williamson is likely to be long-gone by 2nd October 2021 (or sooner).