Gavin Williamson’s spectacular U-turn over exams results puts in jeopardy his role in the Cabinet for the second time of his career. The Education Secretary admitted he had a “difficult” conversation with Prime Minister Boris Johnson over the U-turn which will see A-level students in England receive increased grades. Mr Johnson revived his position as a top Minister last year after the last Prime Minister, Theresa May, dismissed Mr Williamson as defence secretary for allegedly leaking security discussions.
But there are already murmurings that he should again be ousted for Monday’s climb-down to base grades on teachers’ assessments in England rather than a controversial algorithm.
Speaking to LBC, Mr Williamson said: “My focus is three-fold: one, to make sure students get the grades they deserve, secondly to make sure students are back at school in September as we’re going to do.
“And then thirdly, which is equally an enormous agenda, the thing that the Prime Minister wants me to deliver on is to make sure we continue that revolution in education.
“We’ve seen over the last 10 years standards in education increase massively.
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“I’m going to be driving that forward over this Parliament.
“That’s my focus, that’s what I’m going to be doing, that’s what I’m going to be delivering on.”
The Cabinet Minister went on to admit that he had a very difficult conversation with the Prime Minister over the U-turn.
He added: “It’s not a conversation you would ever want to do.
Conservative former minister George Freeman described the Government’s handling of grades as a “total shambles” that has “been so obviously coming for months” and suggested Mr Williamson may go in an upcoming reshuffle.
The Tory MP told Times Radio: “Ultimately, the Prime Minister is in charge. And I think he will want to take firm control of this and get a grip and show that his government is taking the life chances of a generation of children seriously.
“I’m told the Prime Minister’s, you know, planning to reshuffle in the autumn and I dare say he wants to take everything into account.”
Labour shadow minister Louise Haigh said Mr Williamson “must resign”, while the Liberal Democrats’ education spokeswoman Layla Moran was equally blunt in her assessment.