Tag Archives: Williamson

Priorities: Tories fail to provide funding for schools to recover from Covid-19 because they want YOUR kids to fail

Gavin Williamson: he could provide the funding needed to help your kids catch up with the education they’ve missed due to the Covid lockdowns – he just doesn’t want to.

Tory priorities in action: they have billions to waste on PPE provision contracts for donors who were never going to be able to provide anything, but they absolutely refuse to spend enough for your kids’ education to recover from the effects of the pandemic.

The gap between what is needed and what they’re offering is apparently so wide that England’s school recovery commissioner (did you even know there was such a person) has resigned in disgust:

The education recovery commissioner for England, Sir Kevan Collins, has resigned in a row over the lack of “credible” Covid catch-up funding.

Sir Kevan took on the role as catch-up tsar in February to develop a long-term plan to help pupils make up for lost learning during the pandemic.

But on Wednesday he stepped down saying the government’s funding for the plan “falls far short of what is needed”.

Head teachers labelled the £1.4bn cash over three years as a “damp squib”.

The Education Policy Institute had calculated that a catch-up funding recovery would need £13.5bn – and Sir Kevan was reported as having put forward plans costing £15bn.

The government’s proposal represents £50 per pupil per year.

The government’s response has been to thank Sir Kevan for his work, and to claim that already £3 billion has been put into helping school pupils catch up.

So that’s an admission that they’re providing less than a third of what is needed.

The tragedy of this is that the government could magic up the cash for this in a heartbeat – but our dunce of an Education Secretary, Gavin “Algorithm” Williamson, together with Boris Johnson himself, simply doesn’t want to.

To explain: governments create money and invest it in the economy wherever their priorities lie. Last year, Johnson created £300 billion to keep the UK ticking over during the Covid lockdowns.

So, if the government really wanted to invest in your child’s education, it would create the money for it and pump it into the education system.

The only conclusion to be had is that the Tories don’t want your child to be properly educated. Why should they? Their children are privately-educated.

Source: School catch-up tsar resigns over lack of funding – BBC News

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Education professionals rubbish Williamson’s claim Covid has worsened behaviour in English schools

Wearing the dunce’s cap yet again: Gavin Williamson was happy to deliberately endanger your children by reopening schools at the height of the Covid crisis (he was forced to close them again when the demand for him to do so became overwhelming. Now he’s happy to falsely criminalise them – in order to satisfy a new profit-making market he is creating?

The Tory Education Secretary’s unevidenced claim that discipline in English schools has “inevitably” worsened after a year of lockdowns has been dismissed as nonsense by people who actually work with school pupils.

Gavin Williamson intends to impose a national network of “behaviour hubs” to spread “best practice” among schools and teachers.

But it seems there is absolutely no need for them. Why is the Tory minister so keen to force them on our schools, and on our children?

Is it anything to do with his new network of “secure schools” – prisons for youngsters – to be run by private firms as “charitable” enterprises?

But Mark Russell, the chief executive of the Children’s Society, told The Guardian:

“We are not aware of any evidence that their behaviour is worse, and our practitioners report that on the whole young people have been relieved to get back inside the classroom.”

Mary Bousted, a joint leader of the National Education Union, said:

“With all the challenges currently facing schools, playing to the gallery by talking tough on behaviour is the least useful approach the education secretary can take.”

Wes Streeting, Labour’s Shadow Schools Minister, also said something – but we are already aware that he is an extremely suspect character himself so it is best to pass him by.

Stuart Lock is chief executive of the Advantage Schools trust, which includes one of the 22 schools named as hubs. Even he disagreed with Williamson’s claims:

“I don’t believe classroom behaviour has got worse than it was before the pandemic. It is probably a bit better.”

Even the man leading the new project – Tom Bennett, the DfE’s lead adviser on behaviour – has said there is no evidence of worsened behaviour:

“To be honest, the picture on behaviour we’re seeing is reasonably consistent with the behaviour we were seeing before the pandemic.”

So why has Williamson suddenly falsified a claim that our kids have all gone feral, and started wasting our money on a project to correct behaviour that hasn’t gone bad?

Well, there is this new “secure schools” aspect of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill:

Secure schools are essentially a re-branding of Young Offenders Institutions that allows private organisations to run them.

The government says it is building “schools with security, not prisons with education” but as Zahra Bei wrote in 2019, “the policy of rebranding youth jails as ‘secure schools’ provides a thinly-veiled disguise for what in essence marks the start of the biggest children’s prison expansion programme in Britain”.

Members of the British Association of Social Workers have called the plans “a penal approach rooted in the past”.

The contract for the first secure school was awarded to academy chain Oasis, which has one of the highest rates of personal exclusions in the UK.

It will be on the site of the former Medway Secure Training Centre in Kent, which was described as “a site of violence and abuse that prevented the young people who were held there from accessing learning and freedom”.

After a dispute arose over whether running a child prison could be considered a suitable activity for a charity, the government wrote clauses into its new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to ensure that running a child prison can be considered a charitable activity in law.

The change will encourage more academy chains to be providers, creating what the Tories no doubt hope will be a profitable market. And the use of charities will put distance between the Tory government and anything that happens there.

You can read further information on the “secure schools” project here.

With a new market opening up for the detention (and mistreatment?) of children, it seems clear that the organisations running it will want a supply of children.

And suddenly Gavin Williamson is talking about poor behaviour in schools. Convenient?

Source: Experts reject claim Covid has worsened behaviour in English schools | Pupil behaviour | The Guardian

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Gavin Williamson wants school discipline clampdown. Based on what evidence?

Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em: Gavin Williamson was unkindly compared to Frank Spencer from the 70s sitcom. Sadly, if he were more like the character Michael Crawford immortalised, he’d probably care more about children’s well-being and less about subjecting them to “discipline” – which, in the mouth of a Tory, seems very creepy indeed.

Gavin Williamson, the dunderheaded education secretary who illegally scrapped dozens of legal rights for children, is attacking them again.

This time he’s telling us that long periods in lockdown have “inevitably” turned our children feral, and they need to have hefty amounts of discipline whacked into them now that schools are open again.

(When I say “whacked”, I should stress that he’s not actually promoting a return to physical punishments – although I wouldn’t put it past him and our government of weirdo fascists.)

I see no evidence in support of Williamson’s claim. Indeed, information he has provided himself suggests that kids in lockdown have settled down to the different routine of remote schooling via the internet.

“Technology has been invaluable keeping children learning during lockdowns and we support its use,” he said.

Unfortunately, in the very same breath, he demanded that technology is a disruptive influence and that mobile phones should be banned from schools.

He’s actually trying to do something clever here – supporting a lie with a truth. But we can all see through it – can’t we?

This Writer’s personal opinion is that mobile phones shouldn’t be allowed in classrooms. If kids insist on bringing them in, teachers should keep a list of those who have them, and should collect them in the morning and give them back at the end of the school day.

It would be too easy to use internet-enabled mobiles to cheat – and that would undermine the point of going to school.

The points about cyberbullying and inappropriate use of social media are, on balance, also fair:

Mr Williamson has made banning mobile phones in schools a key part of his plan, saying they not only distract from “exercise and good old-fashioned play” but also foment cyber bullying and the inappropriate use of social media.

But he has produced no evidence to suggest that possession of a mobile phone, use of it as an education tool during lockdown, or indeed being forced to stay at home at all have eroded discipline in children.

Indeed, if our kids have buckled down and studied at home, without a teacher standing over them, that tends to indicate that they have employed self-discipline. Doesn’t it?

Also, he hasn’t provided any information about the kind of discipline he intends to impose. Is he advocating the conversion of our schools into training grounds for some kind of imposed fascism – the “Johnson Youth”?

The backlash has started:

Last word: It has been alleged that Williamson’s discipline drive is a retaliation against kids who criticised him for policies like his stupid algorithm-based plan to replace exam marks, that automatically assumed that state school pupils would not achieve results as high as those who were privately-educated…

Can anybody provide evidence to support this? I haven’t seen any.

But you have to admit, based on his behaviour, it rings true.

Source: Gavin Williamson backs mobile phone ban in schools and claims children have lacked ‘discipline’ during lockdown | Evening Standard

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Education Secretary denies refusing cheap internet for children, to ensure they couldn’t learn at home

Gavin Williamson: so stupid, he thinks his daft excuse about quality control will hold water. His Tory government doesn’t have any?

It seems Gavin Williamson is making a fuss about this.

According to the Mirror,

Gavin Williamson turned down an offer to get free or cheap broadband for thousands of disadvantaged families, the Mirror has learned.

Broadband giant BT offered to supply families basic connections to allow children to access online learning with schools closed for months during the Covid-19 pandemic.

And the firm’s Chief Executive revealed they had given free wifi vouchers to the Government in June but the Department for Education ‘struggled to distribute them effectively’ and returned them.

Williamson tells a different story:

A spokesman for the education department said a pilot of the scheme had not provided “reliable and consistent” internet connection.

Who do you believe?

Well, BT is an Internet Service Provider of very long standing, with experience in providing a reliable service to many thousands – if not millions – of homes.

And the Conservative Government of which Williamson is a member has also displayed consistency – in wasting public money on services offered by cowboy companies cobbled together by Tory donors or spoilt friends of Cabinet members.

It looks like another ideologically-motivated attack on the poor; pretend the offer doesn’t meet what passes for Conservative government quality control and reject it – to ensure that poor kids miss out on the education that might otherwise give them an advantage over rich kids who tend not to have two brain cells to rub together.

How does it look to you?

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Williamson’s failures on home learning expose Tory policy stupidity on ‘Broadband Communism’

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson may be acting “to the utmost of his ability”, but so was Frank Spencer – the calamitous comedy character with whom Williamson has been compared.

If this inspires confidence in you, then you’re not thinking hard enough:

Saying the prime minister thinks Gavin Williamson is being Education Secretary “to the utmost of his ability” is not the same as saying he has “full confidence” in him.

Williamson has far too many mistakes in his recent history for any member of the public to have full confidence in him, let alone any school pupil.

Only yesterday he admitted that his Covid-19-related failures – in both policy and practice – have made it impossible to hold GCSE, AS and A level exams this year:

Perhaps you don’t grasp the enormity of the admission from what he said. Labour’s shadow Education Secretary, Kate Green, made it clear that she holds him to blame for the chaos in the education system.

The reason Williamson has cancelled the exams is that the Covid-19 crisis – and its effect on schools – has made it impossible to ensure that pupils across the UK have been educated to an equivalent standard.

The reasons for the uneven standards include the fact that teachers have been unable to plan their lessons properly due to Williamson’s unfortunate habit of announcing that schools will stay open no matter what – and then closing them.

Also, he was supposed to provide laptops to pupils, in order to ensure that they could carry on learning to an acceptable standard even if they were confined to their homes. He didn’t (or at least, he didn’t provide enough).

This has now necessitated children without laptops being added to the “vulnerable” list of youngsters who have to go to school during lockdown, alongside the kids of key workers. This amounts to another example of class warfare – kids without laptops are likely to be poor, and sending them to school exposes them to the most common vector for transmission of the killer virus:

Finally, there’s the fact that some families don’t have access to the broadband internet connections necessary to experience this kind of home learning.

The Tories now agree with Labour that this is a good idea – but it is too late to implement it in time to help this year’s crop of exam-takers.

Let us remind ourselves of the reaction – from the Tories and the mass media – when the Labour Party proposed free broadband across the UK in the run-up to the 2019 general election:

Who was right?

John McDonnell and Labour, of course (Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, that is. Kate Green, while being right about Gavin Williamson, also said that schools should stay open. That’s the lunacy of the party under Keir Starmer for you)).

If that party had been elected, free broadband would have been brought to the UK, school pupils would have been able not only to do their homework but to carry out distance learning, preparing them for their exams which would not have had to be cancelled – and it would have helped adults to work from home as well, which would have been a great help to a great many people during lockdown, as well.

That’s the problem with silly Tory ideological incompetence.

Their failure to accept the wisdom of free broadband, and their failure to equip school pupils for home learning, means Williamson has been forced to cancel exams because pupils are not well-enough educated.

As a result, the UK’s workforce will be less competitive in the world marketplace in the future, when compared with other countries that were better-prepared and more willing to help everybody in their populations, rather than just the very rich.

So when we look at the malady afflicting the UK’s education system under the Conservatives, during the Covid-19 crisis, we can see one thing clearly:

Williamson is a symptom of the illness. Conservative government is the cause.

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Rishi Sunak and Gavin Williamson: Boris Johnson’s fall guys?

Sunak and Williamson: will they take the blame for Boris Johnson’s latest chaotic lockdown?

Boris Johnson’s latest lockdown (if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, what do you call it?) has put some of his lieutenants in a very difficult position. Untenable, This Writer would have thought.

I refer to Tory Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.

Sunak was described by one of the right-wingers on the Times Red Box Podcast as “The dog that does not bark in the night time” because he had made a big song and dance in August about the loss of 30,000 jobs, and in his autumn statement he had said that the government cannot continue borrowing indefinitely… but when Johnson announced what is in effect a new lockdown in England costing £1 billion a day, he at first had nothing to say.

Sunak eventually turned up on Tuesday morning, announcing that he had shaken the Magic Money Tree and found £4.5 billion to hand out in new business support grants:

As usual, what he said was not nearly as important as what he ignored:

Even Annaliese Dodds didn’t mention everything. The Tory financial response to Covid-19 – and in particular to their own measures to fight the spread of the disease – has been a travesty best described as ill-considered; at worst it was deliberately targeted to harm people whose livelihoods were at risk.

On top of that, of course, Sunak himself foisted his now-infamous “Eat Out to Die Out” (did I get that name right?) scheme on us…

Perhaps it isn’t surprising that he has restricted his comments to yet another announcement of insufficient financial support.

That Red Box Podcast went on to describe “absolute chaos in the education system” under Gavin Williamson, with “huge frustration for parents as well as children”.

Not only do the new measures mean a whole year of our children’s education will have been disrupted, and their exams cancelled, but it also means frustration for parents and teachers.

Primary school children were sent back to school for just one day before Johnson pulled out the rug from under the system. But Williamson is the one with egg on his face, because he did not give anybody involved in education any advance warning about what was going to happen.

The podcast pointed out that Williamson’s Education department actually took some councils to court when they threatened not to open schools in the autumn. Now he is demanding that they must all close. It’s constant mixed-messaging; utter confusion – and it’s causing huge anxiety.

Exams including GCSEs and A levels have been cancelled in acknowledgement of the unfairness of subjecting pupils to the same exams when they haven’t had the same opportunities to study for them.

But how will our youngsters’ academic achievement be assessed instead? Last year, Williamson rolled out an algorithm-led assessment system that (predictably, because he’s a Tory) gave all the best marks to kids at private schools and deliberately penalised high achievers elsewhere for attending state schools.

He was forced into a humiliating backslide but now we’re all agog to see what he’ll do instead, now that a second year’s exams have been cancelled. Sadly, it seems likely that he doesn’t know what he’ll do, either.

Libby Purves, one of the contributors, was asked if she had ever known an Education Secretary like Williamson in all her years of reporting on the subject and actually used the comparison with comedy character Frank Spencer that was coined by the public last month.

She went on to attack the testing system in schools. Is she right about it? “Shut 30 children in one room, test them and then 15 minutes later release them into another room of 30  – completely ignoring the fact that a lot of them are out on the school bus.”

She said education was being handled by people who don’t know anything about it – which, for Williamson, is damning.

Will either of these ministers lift a finger to provide a better service to the beleaguered citizens of the UK?

I should bleedin’ cocoa!

This Tory government simply isn’t interested in working out what to do for the best.

It is too busy watching the opinion polls and trying to work out what will be popular.

The trouble is, thanks to innovations – if you can call them that – like the so-called ‘nudge unit’ that tried to influence what people think, the government has stopped a large proportion of the population from having opinions of their own.

In effect, in trying to follow opinions that they have tried to shape, the Tories are chasing their own tails – and getting nowhere. Meanwhile the country collapses beneath the weight of their indecision.

Boris Johnson must see this. He’s as thick as mince but he has a strong survival instinct.

He’ll be looking for patsies, onto whom he can offload responsibility. Sunak and Williamson look like the perfect candidates.

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Tories finally tell PRIMARY schools in LONDON to stay closed. Union calls for rest of England to do the same

Wearing the dunce’s cap again: for Gavin Williamson, the reopening of schools at the height of the Covid crisis isn’t a hard decision – he does what he’s told to do by Boris Johnson. That’s why he has made a fool of himself – and why he is deliberately endangering your children and (if you are a parent) you.

Could anything better illustrate the weakness of Boris Johnson and his Conservative government?

They want to keep the UK’s economy going, despite having done everything possible to let Covid-19 rampage through the population while pretending to restrict it.

So they need to keep schools open, so parents don’t have an excuse to stay at home.

That’s why none of their restrictions/lockdowns since September have included schools.

They seemed ready to keep up this farcical charade into the New Year – even though Covid-19 infection rates have soared and schools are the most common vector – right up until January 1, days before the new school term was due to begin.

Then – at the very last minute once again, meaning parents’ plans have been thrown into chaos for no good reason – Education Secretary Gavin Williamson u-turned, signing off on a plan for all primary schools to remain closed for the time being…

In London.

For clarity, you need to be aware that secondary schools and colleges were already set to be closed to most pupils for the first two weeks of term, while primaries in 50 local authorities in London and southern England were also told to remain closed until January 18.

It was only after council leaders in 10 other London boroughs, where Covid transmission rates are high but schools were told to remain open, said they would defy the government and support closures that Williamson agreed to close them all.

He had been backed into a corner. Whatever he did would have led to humiliation so he chose the option that would not result in open defiance.

But his decision only covers those 60 local authority areas in London and the south, prompting education unions – most prominently the National Education Union – to ask:

Why are are children and parents in the rest of England being left vulnerable to Covid?

The National Education Union’s joint general secretary, Mary Bousted, has called on the government to close schools across that country (remember: education is a devolved responsibility so the governments of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland choose whether their schools will open or not).

According to the BBC,

In Wales, there will be “flexibility” at the beginning of term, with teaching due to start in most places from 4 January. Schools are expected to offer face-to-face learning for most pupils by 11 January, with a full return by 18 January.

In Northern Ireland, primary school pupils will be taught online until 11 January. In secondary schools, years 8 to 11 will be taught online throughout January. Years 12 to 14 will return to school after the first week of January.

In Scotland, the Christmas holidays have been extended to 11 January, and the following week will be online learning only. A full return to face-to-face learning is planned for 18 January.

Dr Bousted pointed out that it is impossible to stop children from mixing with each other in large numbers and if just one has the virus, then they all may catch it and transmit it to their families – and out into the community:

She added, on Andrew Castle’s LBC radio talk show, that teachers have a legal right to refuse to work if they think opening schools will create a health risk:

For Gavin Williamson, the situation has now become extremely precarious:

Will Williamson cave in again, or will he stand accused of condemning thousands to catch the virus when the NHS cannot take the strain and fatalities are rising?

And what will happen to Boris Johnson’s precious economy if this irrational stubbornness over schools creates knock-on havoc in business and industry?

Whatever happens, responsibility for the result will lie entirely with Johnson and his Conservative government. But we, the people, will pay the price.

Source: All primary schools in London to remain closed after U-turn | Schools | The Guardian

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‘Frank Spencer tribute act’ Williamson gets jingoistic about Covid vaccine. Should Michael Crawford sue?

.                               Spencer                                                                                             Williamson

After cocking up his own brief on breakfast TV, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson went on to display his ignorance on the radio.

Talking with LBC’s Nick Ferrari (who once crossed swords with This Writer, and I wonder if he regrets it), Williamson was asked about the Covid vaccine and decided to play the race racist card:

For clarity: the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was developed by a US/German company using mainly Turkish scientists. It was approved using EU rules, which means all the countries Williamson mentioned had some involvement (if only minor).

And on a day when a man named Adolf Hitler was trending on Twitter after he won an election (in Namibia), the public ensured that Williamson was right up there with him – as inept TV comedy icon Frank Spencer.

(It seems they find his accent amusing.)

See:

Really, all he has done is divert attention away from the terrifying fact:

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BBC’s Munchetty calls out Williamson for forcing BAME English children to sit exams. Gammons are furious

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson was put on the back foot over his plan to force disadvantaged black and minority ethnic children in England to sit exams, despite the disruption of Covid-19 – and racists across the UK supported him.

Interviewed by the BBC’s Naga Munchetty, he gave an incoherent performance in which he tried to say that disadvantaged children always fare better in exams than when their results depend on teacher assessments.

Was he basing his claim on the fiasco that he himself caused last summer – when a Tory government-created computer algorithm automatically assigned higher grades to pupils at public schools and artificially lowered those of pupils considered to be disadvantaged, without any reference to the grades that had been predicted for them, if they had been able to take exams as normal?

I think he was.

Look at this:

” Children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds and children from Black and ethnic minorities communities are given the best advantage by sitting examinations and having that test.”

Because it means they won’t fall foul of Williamson’s brutally biased algorithm?

Munchetty interrupted, setting him up for a fall: “I understand from that point then that those disadvantaged children in Wales and Scotland are going to be more disadvantaged because they’re not having exams.”

This should put an obvious further question in viewers’ minds: What if, when it happens, they’re not? What if the Welsh and Scottish systems provide accurate assessments of these pupils’ abilities?

Won’t Williamson – and the government he represents – then appear to be attacking children who are trying to work their way out of the disadvantages that their social positions have forced on them, simply because he can?

Sadly, our thickie Education Secretary didn’t even realise he was walking into a trap, and carried on blithely: “Every study that has been carried out that’s looked at this has shown that predicted grades most disadvantage children from the poorest backgrounds.

“Predicted grades and teacher assessments disadvantage children from Black and ethnic minorities so we do believe exam assessment is the best form.”

His predicted grades, maybe. Teacher assessments were overridden by his predictions, as the huge scandal over school exams last summer made clear.

This Writer thinks we’re going to see a shocking contrast between exam scores for disadvantaged and BAME children in England and those in the rest of the UK next summer.

The kids in England – whether they sit exams or not – or likely to fall far behind those in the other countries, where their abilities will be assessed using a fair system that has nothing to do with Tory algorithms that falsely weight results in favour of kids who are already absurdly privileged.

And Williamson – along with his corrupt Tory pals – will be exposed again.

Of course the gammons in the BBC Breakfast News audience were incensed at Munchetty for daring to hint that their Tory minister might possibly discriminate against people of minority racial backgrounds and the poor (as they have throughout history):

If you check the critics’ bios, you’ll see that most of them are anonymous, with few followers – classic signs of trolls or paid bots.

And it seems they flooded Twitter after the interview in the hope that they could fool you into thinking Munchetty was in the wrong.

She wasn’t. I trust Vox Political readers can think for themselves, rather than be guided by people who are paid to lie to you.

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Gavin Williamson scrapped dozens of protections for children – unlawfully

Williamson the dunce: I know it’s a duff image but it reflects this MP’s abilities so I’ll keep using it as long as he continues to be a dunce.

Tory Education Secretary Gavin Williamson stripped children in care of 65 legal protections illegally, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

Judges said he should have consulted the Children’s Commissioner and other stakeholder organisations before inflicting such a “substantial and wide-ranging” “bonfire of children’s rights”.

The regulations affected included legal timescales for social-worker visits to children in care, six-monthly reviews of children’s welfare, independent scrutiny of children’s homes and senior officer oversight of adoption decision-making for babies and children.

The protections affected also cover disabled children having short breaks and children in care sent many miles away from home.

It seems Williamson did conduct a consultation but was selective about whose opinions he sought – adoption agencies, private providers and local government bodies.

But organisations representing the children and young people who were to be affected by the changes were not consulted and the Children’s Commissioner only found out about the changes after they had been forced through Parliament through the Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) regulations in April.

We are told that all of the changes were temporary and have now expired.

We have yet to hear – may never hear – how many children were harmed as a result of them.

Williamson has been told to run proper consultations in future.

But will he? And doesn’t this simply reignite the debate over whether Conservatives should be allowed anywhere near children in care.

Source: Education secretary ‘unlawfully scrapped children’s rights’ – BBC News

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