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Knighthoods are a farce

Greg Devine


Residence of the British Prime Minister, Downing Street, London.

The pandemic affected everyone in different ways but, as a student, I particularly struggled. I’m not saying I had it harder than anyone else (I actually think it’s rather pointless debating this), but my studies were ruined, and my educational experience was nowhere near as useful as it should have been.

I enrolled on a brand-new course, called a ‘T-Level’; these are, essentially, more specialised qualifications that are equivalent to three A-Levels. It was something I really looked forward to. Companies involved in the digital industry had agreed to support the qualification, with trips and talks from prominent people who were willing to share their knowledge with students to give them a head start.

The pandemic stopped this, however. Trips were cancelled, thanks to lockdowns, and with the country working at home, business owners were less inclined to deliver talks to college students.

Also, the standard of teaching wasn’t as good. This isn’t a slight on my tutors; I think they’re amazing. Having all had experience in the digital industry, ultimately, their lessons weren’t up to the standard they’d have liked, given that students were working from home and the personability aspect was abandoned. The government did very little to support students during this period; instead, they just lowered grade boundaries. This was the minimum they could do; whilst I agree it was a necessity, it was the bare minimum.

I appreciate that, at this point, you may be wondering what knighthoods have to do with this issue. Well, I’m sure you can understand my shock and, to be quite frank, disgust, when it was announced that the Education Secretary of that time, Gavin Williamson, is to be knighted.

What a massive middle finger this is to all the students, teachers and staff working in the education sector.

Mr Williamson appeared to be universally disliked by all who were affected by his policies. I overheard my tutors talking about how he appeared inept at his job—something Boris Johnson clearly agreed with when he sacked him last year!

School education during pandemic. Students pupils schoolchildren listening to teacher on lesson class wearing protective face masks against Covid19 coronavirus.

School education during pandemic. Students pupils schoolchildren listening to teacher on lesson class wearing protective face masks against Covid19 coronavirus.

When you see someone’s name prefixed with Sir or Dame, you expect them to be exemplary…a person who has had a major positive impact on their country. Gavin Williamson is not that. Before being Education Secretary, he was the Secretary of Defence. Guess what? He was sacked from that position as well. How can you be sacked from two incredibly important roles in government and be rewarded with a knighthood? It’s just something I struggle to accept.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet the current Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi. Again, he may not be universally liked, but I personally found him quite endearing. I managed to talk to him for a relatively long period of time; he spoke about where the government wants to take T-Levels, and it was very encouraging for future students. He remembered the conversation I had with him and even mentioned me by name in the House of Commons. I highly doubt his predecessor would have done this.

I’m not saying that, just because Mr Zahawi remembered my name, I think he deserves a knighthood. It’s more that his personability and apparent effort to improve education is what should be expected of an Education Secretary, which is very refreshing in comparison to Gavin Williamson’s performance in this role.

It has become apparent to me that being a Sir or a Dame means nothing anymore. Mr Williamson’s knighthood is certainly more to do with his ability to be a good boy and not leak our Prime Minister’s secrets than his ability to do a ‘good job’ in various government roles.

When it comes to the credibility of such a lauded title, Sir David Attenborough makes sense; he’s a national hero who continuously strives to improve the world, especially the waves he’s making on the topic of climate change. I don’t think the same can be said about Sir Gavin Williamson.

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