Covid

‘Sorry if I caused offence’, says MP who claimed teachers broke lockdown rules

In a letter to heads, Michael Fabricant admits 'error' in implying lockdown drinks were 'general practice' among school staff

In a letter to heads, Michael Fabricant admits 'error' in implying lockdown drinks were 'general practice' among school staff



An MP who claimed teachers broke lockdown rules with after-work drinks in school staff rooms has said he is sorry “if” he caused offence.

Conservative politician Michael Fabricant admitted it was an “error” to “give the impression” that drinking in staffrooms was “general practice” among teachers and nurses during lockdown.

The MP for Lichfield was chastised by school leaders for comments made on BBC News while defending the prime minister Boris Johnson, who was fined for attending a party in Downing Street during lockdown.

It was not my intention to cause offence, let alone ‘demoralise’ anyone as some have suggested, and I apologise if I have genuinely done so

Fabricant claimed that “at the time he thought, just like many teachers and nurses who after a very, very long shift would tend to go back to the staff room and have a quiet drink – which is more or less what he has done”.

His “insulting and offensive” comments prompted a fierce backlash, and a letter to education secretary Nadhim Zahawi from Paul Whiteman, the general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT.

Fabricant has this week responded to the letter, insisting he was aware of “a number of instances” where staff “chose to unwind with a few work colleagues after a long shift”.

He added that a “number of other cases” had been brought to his attention since the interview, which was “not surprising” given the number of teachers and nurses in Britain.

However, he admitted it was an “error” to “give the impression this was general practice by nurses and teachers: this was never the case”.

“I thought it might be helpful if I make it clear that it was not my intention to cause offence, let alone ‘demoralise’ anyone as some have suggested, and I apologise if I have genuinely done so.”

Leaders ‘don’t recognise the picture painted’

Whiteman said he was “pleased that Mr Fabricant has expressed regret for the effect of his comments – they were unjustified, unhelpful and damaging”.

“While we appreciate his explanation, we must reiterate that we do not recognise the picture Mr Fabricant painted of teachers drinking together during lockdown.

teachers tutoring Covid absence attendance leadership Omicron schools academy trusts white paper
Whiteman

“Education professionals worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to keep pupils safe, supported and learning under exceptionally difficult circumstances.”

It comes after the union leader warned yesterday at the NAHT’s annual conference that mistrust over the partygate scandal making it harder to instill “integrity and honesty” in pupils.

He said school leadership was “hard” at the moment because of Covid pressures, funding, accountability, hours and pay, but also because of an “absolute failure of political leadership”.

“Young people can see this playing out before their very eyes. And schools’ efforts to make sure young people understand the basics of self-regulation, good behaviour, decency, honesty, and integrity become so much more difficult against that backdrop.”



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