Boris Johnson has been accused of “throwing civil service leaders under a bus” to protect himself and his ministers, after he sacked the Department for Education’s top mandarin in the wake of the A-level exam grading fiasco.
Permanent secretary Jonathan Slater became the latest in a long line of Whitehall figures to be ousted since Mr Johnson was re-elected in December with his top adviser Dominic Cummings intent on a fundamental shake-up of the civil service to centralise power in the hands of the prime minister and trusted allies.
Labour said parents would view with dismay the “complete chaos” at the heart of the government’s education operation just days before children in England and Wales return to school after five months’ absence due to lockdown.
Mr Slater hands over to temporary successor Susan Acland-Hood – who was drafted into the department just a week ago to deal with the fallout from the exams crisis – on 1 September, the very day on which most schools reopen their doors to all pupils in one of the most sensitive moments so far in the nation’s gradual relaxation of coronavirus restrictions.
And there were questions over why education secretary Gavin Williamson has hung onto his post when his top official and the head of exams regulator Ofqual Sally Collier were both forced out. School leaders’ union ASCL said it was “unsavoury” that officials were paying with their jobs while ministers and advisers escape unscathed.