school rebuilding

Labour is calling on education secretary Gavin Williamson to resign over a “series of failures” during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Shadow education secretary Kate Green said it was “time for Gavin Williamson to go”, following a debate in Parliament on the government’s work to provide free school meals and remote education support.

He has bounced from one crisis to another without learning from his mistakes

The House of Commons passed a Labour motion last night calling for eligible families to receive the “full value of free school meals for the duration of the school year, including during all holidays”.

The motion was symbolic, meaning it won’t change government policy, and it only passed because Conservative MPs did not vote.

The backlash over pitiful free school meal food parcels shared on social media last week was the latest in a series of fiascos to hit Williamson’s Department for Education over the last year.

Labour said Williamson’s handling of the recent chaos, coupled with his approach to last year’s exams fiasco, delays to remote education support and repeated refusals and U-turns over providing free school meals during school holidays last year meant he had to go.

“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,” said Green.

“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.”

A source close to Williamson said the education secretary was “focused on the job”.

Responding to last night’s debate, Williamson said his department was “acutely aware of our huge responsibility to all our children, but none more than those who are socially and economically disadvantaged”.

He said the government was providing 1.3 million devices for remote learning, and insisted the “overwhelming majority of schools have been successfully providing exceptionally high-quality free school meal support to their pupils”.

But he added: “However, pictures were circulated last week of food parcels that were simply not acceptable. Along with the minister for children, I have met those who are supplying these parcels, and I have left them in no doubt that we expect high-quality food and supplies in the parcels they deliver.

“Our guidance states that the parcels need to contain certain items that parents can use to make a healthy lunch for any child throughout the week.”