Government failures over schools are wide-ranging and carry collective responsibility

Editorial: Firing Gavin Williamson, though tempting, would resolve nothing if his successor continues with the same policies and has to deal with the same dysfunctional Whitehall machine

Wednesday 06 January 2021 19:02 GMT
The education secretary still has lessons to learn
The education secretary still has lessons to learn (Getty)

Allegra Stratton, or the “voice of Boris”, as the prime minister’s new official spokesperson may become known, has begun her duties with quite a splash. Consciously or not, she has helped to further undermine the unstable political vehicle known as Gavin Williamson. Ms Stratton stated, referring to the favourite for the sack: “It’s a huge brief and the prime minister believes the education secretary is doing it [the job] to his utmost ability.”

As students of Whitehall code will well understand, that is the kind of faint praise that usually presages a fall from grace. 

Who knows who was responsible for the most recent schools fiasco? Given the political profile of the issue, it is difficult to believe that the dithering paws of Boris Johnson were entirely absent. The more probable explanation for threatening heads with legal action for closing schools, opening them for one day, then shutting them down the next, lies with the usual interdepartmental wranglings, plus chaos at No 10. That has, after all, been the pattern since last spring, and right across government. The failures are wide-ranging and carry collective responsibility. The rest is mere blame-throwing.

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