'They're laughing at us': Educators' fury as Downing Street bash happened on 'Thank a Teacher day'

By Hannah Graham

North East teachers have added their voices to those furious about the boozy Downing Street garden held during lockdown.

May 2020, 20, was 'National Thank a Teacher Day', a Department for Education-sponsored initiative to show gratitude to hard-working teachers "during these unprecedented times". But these Newcastle and Durham educators say news that Number 10 staff were gathering to enjoy drinks together that very day undermines the attempt at gratitude.

On Wednesday, the Prime Minister apologised to the House of Commons after admitting he did attend the bash, insisting he'd thought it was a "work event". But as allegations of further Downing Street parties emerged, these teachers said they weren't mollified by Mr Johnson's words.

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Newcastle Primary School teacher Amy Kilpatrick, a branch and district secretary at the Newcastle NEU (National Education Union), said news of the party had made her think of the difficult time she'd faced that month - and how, even so, she'd still followed the rules.

She said: "On the May 20, 2020 I was 5 months pregnant and earlier that week I’d had to attend my 20-week antenatal appointment alone despite a history of pregnancy loss.

"I was terrified and had no one to support me if anything had been wrong. At the same time I was working from home in my role as a primary school teacher and trying to keep my two older children entertained and educated.

"I am beyond furious that while I was abiding by all the rules, the people creating them were laughing at us".

Emma Parker, Durham NEU Joint District Secretary and NEU Executive Member, said the irony of the party's date only added to her anger at the fact that those in charge seem to have flouted their own rules.

She said: "Our invitation must have got lost in the post as they were obviously celebrating teacher appreciation day - however they would have not been able to find a teacher who could attend as they were too busy supporting vulnerable and key worker children in school, delivering food parcel for families in need and taking phone calls from concerned parents about the imminent phased return of some year groups.

"We were following the rules trying to keep our families and communities safe it’s appalling that they weren’t".

Durham NEU joint District Secretary and secondary school teacher Nik Jones went further, accusing the government of "gaslighting" education professionals while demanding they "put their health at risk" by going to work.

Responding to criticism about the 'bring you own booze' do in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Boris Johnson said: "I thought it was a work event and I regret very much that we did not do things differently that evening.

“I take responsibility and I apologise."

In response to calls for his resignation by Labour leader Kier Starmer, the Prime Minister full conclusion of the inquiry, until the full facts are brought before this House and he will have an opportunity to put his points again.”

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