Education Sec blames interviewer as she apologises for expletive-laden rant over concrete crisis

4 September 2023, 14:25 | Updated: 7 September 2023, 11:31

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan. Picture: PA/ITV
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

The Education Secretary has apologised after she was caught saying some people have been "sat on their arses" during a concrete crisis affecting schools.

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Gillian Keegan, who made the comments on a hot mic after an interview with ITV News, moaned about not being thanked for doing a "good f*****g job" amid the ongoing crisis.

In footage released by ITV News filmed as the camera repositioned for extra shots, Ms Keegan - still wearing her microphone - claimed the Government had gone "over and above" to ease concerns over the reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac).

"Does anyone ever say, you know what, you've done a f****** good job because everyone else has sat on their arse and done nothing?" she said.

"No signs of that, no?"

Ms Keegan has now apologised for her "choice language".

She said: "It wasn't me talking about anyone in particular, it was an off the cuff remark after the news interview had finished, or apparently after it had finished.

"I'd like to apologise for my choice language, that was unnecessary, but it was an off the cuff remark basically, based on the interview.

"The interview had been pressing me quite hard [on] why I hadn't solved this issue which had been going on since 1994 and it is frustrating because we're doing everything to take a leading position, to be on the front foot."

A source inside Number 10 has said Rishi Sunak has "full confidence" in Ms Keegan after her comments, though said the remarks were "wrong".

It comes after Ms Keegan told LBC today: "Each school has had a case worker assigned and I just want to go round that loop to check that they have been able to get hold of all of the parents and every parent knows."

She is expected to face renewed demands to publish a full list of the schools affected as the Commons returns from its summer recess.

Read More: School concrete collapse fears explained: When will I know if my child's class is affected by and what is RAAC?

Read More: 'Schools have been allowed to wither': James O'Brien criticises Sunak's refusal to fund concrete safety repairs

It comes after the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, said over the weekend that he would “spend what it takes to sort out this problem as quickly as possible” and that the government is doing “everything we can” to resolve it.

He said the government is carrying out an “exhaustive” surveying programme in schools but added: “Obviously, we might find new information in the weeks or months ahead.”

Gillian Keegan (centre) and Rishi Sunak (right)
Gillian Keegan (centre) and Rishi Sunak (right). Picture: Getty

Meanwhile, Mr Sunak has said it was “completely and utterly wrong” to suggest that he is to blame for failing to fully fund a programme to rebuild England’s schools when he was Chancellor.

"New information came to light relatively recently and it's important that once it had, that the Government acted on it as swiftly as possible," he said.

"Of course I know the timing is frustrating, but I want to give people a sense of the scale of what we are grappling with here: there are around 22,000 schools in England and the important thing to know is that we expect that 95% of those schools won't be impacted by this."