The Tories have let children and families down
The Tories have let children and families down

Labour has called on Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to resign for failing children and young people throughout the pandemic, in a House of Commons debate last night.

Local Labour leaders Conor McGinn MP, Marie Rimmer MP, Council Leader David Baines and Cabinet Member for Education, Skills and Business Kate Groucutt wrote to government earlier this month about the digital divide and their fear that some children will be left behind by government inaction:

Now, Labour nationally has set out a series of failures from the Education Secretary since the start of the pandemic, arguing that he is simply not up to the job. This litany of government mistakes includes:

  • Chaos around exams, which created huge stress and confusion for pupils, parents and education staff last summer. This has been repeated in the government’s chaotic approach to January BTEC exams and risks being replicated this summer as the government has failed to prepare a plan B for exams;
  • Failure to keep children learning either in school or from home, with thousands of pupils still lacking the devices and internet connections needed to access online learning;
  • Refusal to feed hungry children, despite being shamed into providing free school meals over the summer and Christmas holidays the government is again refusing to provide support for children now over February half-term;
  • Failure to provide the catch-up support pupils need, with the government’s National Tutoring Programme reaching just one in six pupils on Free School Meals.

This chaotic record has been compounded in the last week after Labour revealed that that the images of inadequate food parcels circulating on social media were almost identical to the government’s recommended food parcel which cost less than £7, despite £15 being provided per child each week

Yesterday, the government told Conservative MPs not to support Labour’s motion guaranteeing children would receive the full value of free school meals support and setting a deadline to get all children the equipment they need to learn remotely.

Conor McGinn, MP for St Helens North, says: “I’m proud that in St Helens Borough, our Labour-led council is working with schools, parents and carers to provide vouchers and decent food hampers during lockdown – including over the February half term – to ensure no child goes hungry.

The Tory Government should be following our example – not cutting off support when families and children most need it. Yesterday, Labour forced a vote in Parliament to guarantee all eligible children in our country the full value of a free school meal, including during the holidays. While the Tories shamefully ignored this call, I – and Labour’s Shadow Education team – won’t stop on this until families have all they need to keep children well supported & provided for over this tough time.”

David Baines, Labour Leader of St Helens Borough Council, says: “Gavin Williamson is simply not up to the job. The fact that he voted to NOT feed hungry children should be enough to disqualify him from the job, but his all-round incompetence is staggering. If he had any shame he’d resign, and if Boris Johnson cared at all then he’d sack him.”

Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Education, said: “Gavin Williamson’s record throughout this pandemic has been shambolic. He has bounced from one crisis to another without learning from his mistakes or listening to the parents, pupils and hard-working education staff who have been left to deal with the fallout.

“Labour’s motion asked for nothing more than the chance for every child to learn, and for no child to go hungry, but the government would not support it.

“We cannot leave children’s futures in the hands of a Minister who will not fight for these basic rights. It is time for Gavin Williamson to go.”

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