The education secretary Gavin Williamson has been sacked from his role in Boris Johnson’s reshuffle.
He tweeted today that it had been a “privilege to serve” as education secretary, and said he looked forward to “continuing to support the prime minster and the government”.
It was initially rumoured he was being lined up as a potential Northern Ireland secretary, but it has since been reported that he is likely to return to the backbenches.
A Downing Street source said Williamson had played a “key role in transforming the skills agenda”, but did not mention his record on schools.
“The prime minister is grateful for his loyalty and service.”
The prime minister’s office is also yet to name his successor at the Department for Education. It is reported that Oliver Dowden, currently the culture secretary, could take over.
Kemi Badenoch, currently a Treasury and equalities minister, has also previously been tipped as a potential successor.
Downing Street said that the reshuffle was being conducted “to put in place a strong and united team to build back better from the pandemic”.
Williamson is leaving after more than two years in the job, much of which has been during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The education secretary has faced heavy criticism for his handling of the pandemic’s impact on schools – most notably last year’s exams fiasco.
He has also been criticised for overseeing chaotic school closure and reopening plans, threatening to sue school leader and councils, and his department’s reticence last year to provide free school meals support in school holidays.
Most recently he has been accused of endangering the health of hundreds of thousands of pupils by a group of scientists, who said the decision to proceed with a return to school without “robust mitigation measures” was “reckless”.
‘Williamson lost confidence of teachers, heads and parents’
As of last week he had a net approval rating of -53 among Conservative Party members. He has faced repeated calls to resign from Labour and education unions, and even the Institute for Government think tank called for him to go last year.
Shadow education secretary Kate Green said Williamson had “failed children and young people, their parents and our hard working education staff”.
“Two years of exams chaos and staff abandoned, unsupported and demoralised. That is Gavin Williamson’s legacy.”
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said he “can’t pretend we’re sorry he’s gone. He really had lost the confident of teacher, headteachers and many parents.”
Williamson served in the role for 785 days, making him the 17th longest-serving (or the 19th shortest-serving) education secretary. He beat his predecessor Damian Hinds by 222 days, but did not make it to the average term length for education secretaries, which is 850.