Leaked WhatsApps Reveal What Gavin Williamson Really Thought Of Teachers During Pandemic

He said they were looking for an "excuse" not to work.
Gavin at a media briefing in Downing Street during the pandemic.
Gavin at a media briefing in Downing Street during the pandemic.
Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright via PA Media

Gavin Williamson accused teachers of looking for an “excuse” not to work during the pandemic, according to leaked WhatsApp messages.

The former education secretary also told then health secretary Matt Hancock that the teaching unions “really really do just hate work”.

The WhatsApps, which were leaked to the Telegraph, also reveal how Williamson and Hancock clashed over the decision to close schools in a bid to slow the spread of Covid.

In May 2020, Williamson messaged Hancock asking for his help in securing personal protective equipment (PPE) for schools so they could not use it “as a reason not to open”.

He added: “All of them will but some will just want to say they can’t so they have an excuse to avoid having to teach, what joys!!!”

In October the same year, Hancock messaged the then education secretary to congratulate him on his decision to delay A-level exams for a few weeks.

“Cracking announcement today. What a bunch of absolute arses the teaching unions are,” the then health secretary wrote.

Williamson responded: “I know they really really do just hate work.”

The former health secretary took to Twitter last night in an attempt to defend himself by insisting he was talking about teaching unions rather than teachers themselves.

He said: “Further to reports in the Telegraph and other outlets, I wish to clarify that these messages were about some Unions and not teachers.

“As demonstrated in the exchange, I was responding regarding Unions. I have the utmost respect for teachers who work tirelessly to support students.

“During the pandemic, teachers went above and beyond during very challenging times and very much continue to do so.”

The WhatsApp messages are among thousands given to the Telegraph by the journalist Isabel Oakeshott, who helped Hancock write his “Pandemic Diaries” book.

Another selection show Hancock decided to fight “a rearguard action” after Williamson successfully lobbied then PM Boris Johnson to let schools re-open in January 2021, despite the high number of Covid cases across the country.

That followed a Zoom call in which Emma Dean, an adviser to Hancock, said Williamson was “freaking out”.

Hancock replied to her on WhatsApp: “I’m having to turn the volume down.”

At the end of the meeting, Hancock said: “I want to find a way, Gavin having won the day, of actually preventing a policy car crash when the kids spread the disease in January. And for that we must now fight a rear-guard action.”

The leaked messages also suggest Hancock rejected advice to give coronavirus tests to all residents going into English care homes, not just those moving from hospitals.

But a spokesperson for the MP - who lost the Tory whip after agreeing to appear on I’m A Celebrity - strenuously denied the claim.

He said: “These stolen messages have been doctored to create a false story that Matt rejected clinical advice on care home testing. This is flat wrong.”

The messages also reveal how a Covid test was couriered to the home of Jacob Rees-Mogg during a nationwide backlog at the height of the pandemic, leaked WhatsApp messages suggest.


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