Despite his annus horribilis, persona non grata Gavin Williamson’s scheme to offer Latin lessons to state school kids is still being pushed ahead by his successor. A contract just launched by the government, and spotted by Guido, confirms the £4 million bill for its “Latin Excellence Programme“. To quote verbatim it is to:
“…improve pupils’ attainment via increased access to, and uptake of, GCSE in Latin, as part of contributing to pupils’ broader Classics education.”
The scheme will be offered ad hoc across 40 state schools as part of a four-year pilot scheme, with the hope to eventually move on from the current status quo of limited classics provision. Guido would have thought teaching kids how to code would been more useful, after all tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis…
Gavin’s week just keeps getting better: after his Rashford racism row yesterday, this morning he’s getting it in the neck for telling the conference of Universities UK to get back to teaching students in person – a speech he delivered via Zoom…
The survey shows that in-person teaching is now one of the top three areas singled out for improvement by students.
This is something we cannot ignore. While the switch to online teaching was a necessary and vital way of keeping young people learning in as safe a way as possible, we have now moved on and students quite rightly expect that they can study in person alongside other students.
Imagine trying to make sense of the subtleties of interpreting Chekov for the stage or carrying out complex molecular biology techniques over Zoom. I for one would need the full benefit of that in-person, world-class teaching that you and your members can rightly be so proud of.
Is Boris regretting chickening out of that reshuffle?
A classic morning media round bombing by care minister Helen Whately this morning. Asked by Nick Ferrari whether Gavin Williamson’s confusion of two black English sports stars was down to racism or incompetence, Whately defended him by saying “I don’t know”:
Ferrari: Is he racist or incompetent?
Whately: You’ll forgive for for saying, I again have probably seen no more of this than what you have seen
Ferrari: What more do you need? He’s mixed up two prominent English black sportsmen, he’s got them the wrong way round, I repeat my question – is this through incompetence or racism?
Whately: Honestly I don’t know
Ferrari: So it could be racism?
Whately: He’s put out his explanation and there’s really nothing more than I can say about it.
Looks like both Whately and Williamson should be grateful there’s no reshuffle today…
As rumours swirl that his job hangs in the balance, today the Evening Standard publishes an interview with Gavin Williamson covering a range of topics – though just one will make headlines elsewhere. Gavin reflected on a productive call he had with Marcus Rashford:
“We met over Zoom and he seemed incredibly engaged, compassionate and charming but then he had to shoot off. I didn’t want to be the one that was holding him back from his training.”
Except he didn’t meet Marcus Rashford – Williamson’s team retrospectively clarified that he in fact spoke to rugby player Maro Itoje. Rashford’s own spokesperson also added that the footballer had “never had any direct communication with Williamson“. Williamson himself insists he just wants to get on with “the rigorous pursuit of high standards”…
UPDATE: Williamson tells Guido:
“Towards the end of a wide-ranging interview in which I talked about both the laptops and school meals campaigns, I conflated the issues and made a genuine mistake. We corrected this with the journalist before publication of the story.
“I have huge respect for both Marcus Rashford and Maro Itoje who run effective and inspiring campaigns.”
Today Labour has released a “back to school report” on Gavin Williamson’s “biggest failures from the last year“, blaming the education secretary and the government for “outstrip[ping] European countries in the length of school closures” during the pandemic, and claiming Labour has offered “proactive measures” to keep them open. A damning indictment of Williamson’s performance… if you ignore the fact education policy in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is devolved…
The data cited in the report, provided by the House of Commons Library, analyses school closures from across the UK, and finds that since January last year UK kids have been out of the classroom for 44% of the total school days. Bumping that number up, of course, was none other than Mark Drakeford, who closed Welsh secondary schools during his October “firebreak” lockdown (whilst schools remained open in England, even during November’s national restrictions), and staggered their reopening from March this year. In England, all children returned to school at the same time. Always a good idea to double-check your homework…
It’s been a difficult few weeks for Dominic Raab, so Guido is sure he’ll be resting easy in Qatar this morning knowing he still has at least one friend in town. Appearing on LBC ahead of the new school term, embattled Education Secretary Gavin Williamson responded to Nick Ferrari’s questions over Raab’s future by insisting he wasn’t “the Arsenal of the cabinet” and he would “absolutely” stay on:
“Dom will absolutely be in the cabinet, he will absolutely be Foreign Secretary, he’s absolutely dedicated and committed to delivering for this country, but also for helping those people who need our support in Afghanistan as well.”
When asked if he’d have flown to Crete just before the fall of Afghanistan, Williamson said “as Education Secretary you tend not to have holidays“. Friends like these…