Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has “got a lot wrong” and should take “final accountability” for the actions of his department in the pandemic, the former head of Ofsted has said.
Sir Michael Wilshaw said headteachers in England lacked confidence in the leadership they were receiving from the Department for Education (DfE).
He said they had even considered taking legal action over the planned reopening of primary schools in England because Mr Williamson had ignored their concerns over safety.
“He (Mr Williamson) has got a lot wrong up to now, hasn’t he,” Sir Michael told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One.
Asked if Mr Williamson should resign, Sir Michael said: “He gets other people to resign – permanent secretaries and the head of Ofqual.”
His comments were a reference to the resignations the most senior civil servant at the DfE, Jonathan Salter, and the chief executive of the exams regulator, Sally Collier, over the summer in the wake of the GCSE and A-level fiasco in England.
He added: “He has got to take final accountability for what has gone on. Ministers don’t tend to resign for mistakes they have made now in the way that they did before.”
Sir Michael said Mr Williamson’s attitude had driven headteachers to the point where they were considering legal action after ministers insisted it was safe for primary schools to return following the Christmas break – only to make a dramatic U-turn on Monday.
“These are not radical, militant people and yet they were considering – before the recent announcement – taking legal action against the Government because they weren’t being listened to by the Education Secretary,” he said.
“That was my understanding – that the Government was demanding that schools remain open and yet all the evidence the headteacher associations were getting was that it was dangerous to do so and (they) were considering legal action against the Department for Education.”
Sir Michael said he did not think the Department for Education was being well led at the present time.
“If you talk to headteachers – I talk to them regularly as an ex-head – they lack confidence in leadership that they are receiving.”