Evidence produced for the Covid Inquiry today (30 October), showed that Gavin Williamson opposed masks in schools principally on the grounds that it was what unions had recommended, and that he "didn't want to give an inch to the unions [...] PM [Boris Johnson] gave him full support in this approach." This is quoted from a message on WhatsApp, from Simon Case to Dominic Cummings, dated 26 August 2020.
Commenting on this released message, Daniel Kebede, General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:
"It will not surprise anyone to learn that Gavin Williamson's much derided period as education secretary was driven largely by pettiness. Today's revelation simply confirms what teachers and parents had always suspected - that Gavin Williamson prioritised point scoring over serious engagement with the representatives of hundreds of thousands of education workers about the best way of suppressing the spread of Covid-19 in schools.
"Several weeks before this WhatsApp exchange, in July 2020, the NEU wrote to Williamson highlighting the role that masks could play in keeping Covid under control in schools and colleges. We also called for a review of the case for mandating their use in the light of developments in scientific opinion and practice elsewhere.
"Gavin Williamson was wholly unsuited to the role of education secretary, and should never have been given responsibility for schools, teachers and pupils during this critical time for our nation. On other issues that the unions were vocal about, such as the roll-out of laptops for lockdown learning or the catastrophic exam grading of 2020, Williamson also dragged his heels.
"The Covid inquiry continues to expose a Government that was always behind the curve on the science, behind other UK nations on taking measures to protect the population, and failed to meet basic levels of competence in office. Those governing the country in future pandemics must do better."