School days ‘will not be longer’ says Gavin Williamson

The Education Secretary has ruled out lengthening school days and promised not to be “timid in terms of our aspirations” when getting children to catch up on the schooling they have missed. At a Downing Street press conference, Gavin Williamson also confirmed there will be “no algorithms whatsoever” in this summer’s exam results, adding it will be “firmly in the hands of teachers”. Mr Williamson also said:

However, there was a warning for grandparents from Dr Jenny Harries, England’s chief deputy medical officer. She urged pupils “not to go hugging them too much”, even if they have been tested at school until the impact of the vaccine rollout is fully understood. It is worth reading this from Telegraph readers debating face masks in schools.

Meanwhile, at least 150,000 more people with learning disabilities will be prioritised for a Covid vaccine, officials have announced following a campaign by Jo Whiley. The BBC DJ said it was a “seismic day” after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation recommended that all patients on the GP Learning Disability Register should be called forward, after conceding limitations in the GP system. Details here.

Woods was ‘agitated’ ahead of car crash, says witness

Tiger Woods almost hit another car and was “agitated and impatient” before his near-fatal crash in the outskirts of LA, according to a witness. Oliver Konteh, a fellow guest at the five-star resort where Woods was staying, said he saw the golfing legend in the carpark at 7am, shortly before he was meant to be at the Rolling Hill Country Club. Mr Konteh, part of a film crew at the resort, claims Woods grew frustrated as he waited for a vehicle blocking his exit to unload luggage, according to American news site TMZ. Read on for details and here is everything we know about the crash and the 15-time major winner’s recovery.

In pictures: How lockdown emptied the world

It’s hard to fathom that, just over a year ago, we would stand elbow-to-elbow with our fellow humans, without a second thought as to whether they might infect us with a highly contagious disease called Covid-19. Every February, revellers would take to the streets in Venice, wearing masks for fun, rather than to prevent infection. In spring, thousands of marathon runners would trample the streets in London, while on Easter Sundays the Pope would address the masses in St Peter’s Square. In this series of photographs, Greg Dickinson look at how, over 12 months, the pandemic has transformed some of the world’s busiest sights.

At a glance: More coronavirus headlines

Also in the news: Today’s other headlines

SNP civil war | Alex Salmond has been invited to give evidence on Friday to the Holyrood inquiry into the Scottish Government’s botched investigation of him. Nicola Sturgeon has insisted it is “downright wrong” to suggest the Crown Office’s intervention in the redaction of Mr Salmond’s evidence to the inquiry was politically influenced. Tom Harris analyses how Scottish voters may yet punish Mrs Sturgeon for her handling of the affair and Adam Tompkins sets out why Holyrood caving in to the Crown Office over the evidence is an historic mistake.

Around the world: Myanmar protests turn on China

The chorus of banging pots and pans begins in Chinatown at about 8pm. The district in Myanmar’s commercial city of Yangon is normally festooned with bright red lanterns to celebrate Chinese New Year. But when the Year of the Ox arrived in mid-February, the usual festive atmosphere was gone – replaced by tension. Read how swelling ranks of young ethnic Chinese protesters are joining mass rallies against the brutal junta that abruptly deposed Aung San Suu Kyi’s government.

Wednesday big-read

Is the electric vehicle bubble starting to burst?

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Former Wallabies star Tim Gavin has watched Harry Wilson grow into the side’s next big thing

So too was Wilson, the big back-rower with a grin still on his face from the news earlier in the day.

The 20-year-old was told on Sunday he’d be making his Test debut, in the No.6 jersey, after an auspicious Super Rugby season that solidified his reputation as one of Australia’s rising stars.

Harry Wilson trains with the Wallabies.

Harry Wilson trains with the Wallabies. Credit:Andrew Phan/Wallabies Media

How surreal then for Gavin, a close family friend, coach and mentor, to be dialling in before the biggest game of Wilson’s life.

In 1990, Gavin won a Test with the Wallabies in Wellington; a 21-9 scrap he said was a turning point for a side that went on to win the World Cup a year later.

After retirement, Gavin continued to give back, coaching at the Gunnedah Rugby Club, about an hour out of Tamworth.

In an under-9s team photo is Wilson and his brother Will. Little did Gavin know that Harry, only six years old at the time, would go on to become one of Gunnedah’s finest products.

Tim Gavin takes a carry for the Waratahs in a match in 1996.

Tim Gavin takes a carry for the Waratahs in a match in 1996. Credit:Getty

Gavin knew the Wilson family well and was thrilled by Friday’s news.

“Having a small part in his early rugby education, I’m just thrilled for him,” Gavin said. “He’s a great kid and someone who the whole team can rally around. Through his performance, he can lift others around him.

“Harry always played two years up, that’s the sort of talent he was. He was fast, had very good skill and a sizeable kid.

“He had two older brothers who sorted him out and he sorted them out. The only scuffles he ever got in were with his brothers on the field and they were on the same team. There was a fair bit of cheek, mostly on the training paddock. They were a pretty competitive family.

“He’s up to that level, so there’s no worry there.”

Wilson, who has been one of the Queensland Reds’ shining lights this season after making a name for himself at Junior Wallabies level last year, said he always appreciated a message from Gavin.

“He was my coach from about four years old to 10 and he’s been very good to me,” Wilson said. “He’s been a good mentor.”


Wilson, now in Queensland, hopes the local folk will be there in the Gunnedah pubs getting behind the Wallabies.

“It would have been awesome to have my family and friends over too but it doesn’t really worry me,” Wilson said. “It’s a chance to play for the Wallabies so doesn’t really change much.

“It’s something I’ve always dreamed about and to get named in this team is awesome.

“About an hour after I rang Mum and Dad and my two brothers, it was a little bit emotional speaking to them, they were stoked for me.

“I know for the whole squad, this is a new era for the Wallabies and we want to win. As Dave’s said, we’re here to win, we’re here to win the Bledisloe. With the other 22 boys we want to make a statement in game one and try and get some good news for Aussie rugby and start the year right.”

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A-level scandal: Education Secretary Gavin Williamson defends going on holiday before results day | Politics News

The education secretary has defended going on holiday a week before the A-level exams controversy.

Gavin Williamson cancelled a key meeting to go on holiday in Scarborough – days before teenagers received their results, according to The Sunday Times.

In a message posted on Twitter, Mr Williamson defended the trip, writing: “I cancelled our family holiday abroad this year to focus on the challenges COVID-19 created for the education sector.

“Over the summer, I went to see family in Scarborough for the first time since lockdown, and while there I was in constant communication with the department.”

It comes after education minister Gillian Keegan was criticised for sharing photos of herself in France as the results fiasco unfolded.

Mr Williamson liked several of the pictures, The Mail on Sunday reported.

The education secretary has resisted calls to resign over a controversial algorithm that was initially used to grade A-level pupils whose exams were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

When the results were released it was revealed that nearly 40% of A-level marks had been downgraded in England.

Williamson: ‘It was the right thing to do’

The system also appeared to advantage private schools, which saw nearly double the number of increases in top marks year-on-year compared to state comprehensives.

It was eventually scrapped in favour of teacher-assessed grades, with Mr Williamson telling Sky News earlier this week he was “incredibly sorry for the distress” the row had caused.

He said up until A-level results day he had “every confidence” the algorithm would not penalise disadvantaged students.

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Exams U-turn a ‘massive relief’ for students

Amid the controversy, the prime minister has been on holiday in Scotland.

On the day A-level results were released, Boris Johnson had given his full endorsement to the algorithm.

He said: “Let’s be in no doubt about it – the exam results we’ve got today are robust, they’re good, they’re dependable for employers.”

The family shared the snaps from the Scottish Highlands. Pic: Carrie Symonds
The family shared pictures from the Scottish Highlands. Pic: Carrie Symonds

Mr Johnson and his fiancee Carrie Symonds have cut short their holiday after pictures of their cottage were published.

A government source confirmed to the PA news agency that the Prime Minister has returned from Scotland.

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Gavin Newsom Beach Closure About Politics, Not Data

According to Newport Beach, CA Mayor Will O’Neill, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D-CA) decision to close Orange County, CA beaches had little to do with science and data and more to do with political pressure.

During an appearance on Fox News Channel’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Friday, O’Neill decried Newsom’s order, pointing to hospital data and unused ventilators.

“Yesterday, Governor Gavin Newsom closed 43 miles of Orange County beaches, not because of data, but because of politics,” he said. “In our local hospital, we have 475 beds. They have never treated more than 25 people at any given time, and yesterday they had nine people that they were treating, and only 1% of their ventilators were being used.”

“This has nothing to do with data, and it has everything to do with politics,” O’Neill proclaimed.

O’Neill argued Newsom’s decision came without consulting him and suggested that he looked at misleading photography.

“I think what our governor did was — he looked up photographs that were showing a mile of beach condensed into about a meter. It looked like everyone was on top of each other. But he should’ve called me.”

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