Gavin Williamson said teachers looking for excuse not to work

Sky News read Matt Hancock’s response after leaks

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Sir Gavin Williamson accused teachers of looking for an “excuse” not to work during the Covid pandemic, according to the latest tranche of leaked messages from Matt Hancock. Mr Hancock also described teaching unions as a “bunch of absolute arses” in the WhatsApps, while Sir Gavin said they “really do just hate work”.

In October 2020, Mr Hancock messaged the then education secretary to congratulate him on his decision to delay A-level exams for a few weeks.

The then health secretary said: “Cracking announcement today. What a bunch of absolute arses the teaching unions are.”

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

Earlier that year in May, Sir Gavin messaged Mr 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!!!”

Following the release of the messages, Sir Gavin insisted that his comments had been “about some unions and not teachers”.

He added: “I have the utmost respect for teachers who work tirelessly to support students.”

The messages also show Mr Hancock was involved in a behind-the-scenes clash with Sir Gavin over moves to keep schools open.

They feature an exchange between Mr Hancock and Emma Dean, a special adviser, during a Zoom meeting in which Sir Gavin convinced then PM Boris Johnson the January reopening should go ahead despite concerns about the second Covid wave.

Ms Dean said the education secretary was “freaking out”, adding: “You can tell he isn’t being wholly rationale. Just by his body language.”

Mr Hancock replied: “I’m having to turn the volume down.”

At the end of the meeting, Mr 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.”

A spokesman for Mr Hancock said: “Tonight’s revelations are exactly like last night’s. These are partial accounts, obviously spun with an agenda.

“They show Matt was focused throughout on saving lives. The right place for a full assessment is the (official Covid) inquiry.”

The more than 100,000 WhatsApp messages were passed to the Telegraph by journalist Isabel Oakeshott, who was given the material by Mr Hancock when they were working together on a book about his time in government during the pandemic.

Ms Oakeshott has confirmed she broke a non-disclosure agreement with Mr Hancock but argued the move was in the public interest.

However she admitted that he was not happy at what she had done.

She told TalkTV’s Piers Morgan Uncensored: “I received a somewhat menacing message from him at 1.20 in the morning.

“I think he is extremely troubled about how to respond to this, but this is not about him.”

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