Gillian Keegan, Britain's education minister, has issued an apology on Monday after a foul-mouthed outburst in which she expressed dissatisfaction over not being recognized enough for her "fu***** good job" in addressing the safety issues of potentially hundreds of unsafe school buildings.
"I'm sorry for my off-the-cuff remark and choice language earlier," Gillian Keegan said on Twitter. "I know parents are concerned. I’ve been working non-stop to resolve this issue as quickly as possible. Most schools aren’t affected, but those that are have been contacted directly and will receive rapid support and funding to keep children safe and minimise disruption to their learning."
The reaction was spurred by a revelation of old and unstable concrete in schools, which saw 104 buildings ordered to close just days before the start of a new term and others utilizing rooms supported up by steel girders, causing outrage among parents and teachers.
The issue is a new political headache for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as members of parliament returned on Monday following the summer recess and adds to the impression of decaying public infrastructure in Britain.
The news has fueled inquiries about whether the Conservative government's funding choices were to blame for the shutdown of over 100 school buildings last week, citing worries about Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC). This issue may affect hundreds of other schools, according to some reports.
About 1,500 schools were sent surveys, and the government is awaiting their responses to determine whether ones had Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC), a lightweight type of concrete that was frequently used in the 1960s and 1980s but is now seen as unsafe and weak.
After an interview with ITV, Keegan made some impulsive comments that were caught on tape, in which she implied that she had contributed more than others to the effort to find a solution, potentially escalating the discussion.
"Does anyone ever say 'you know what, you've done a f**king good job, because everyone else has sat on their arse and done nothing?'," Keegan, Britain's fifth education secretary in two years, said. "No signs of that, no?".
The language was "not acceptable," according to Sunak's spokesperson, but the prime minister was happy with her apology.
Opposition parties argued the school closures were indicative of the Conservative Party's underinvestment in public services since it came to power in 2010. Labour leader Keir Starmer called the government's handling of the school closures was "descending into farce".
95% of England's approximately 22,000 schools, according to Sunak, would not be impacted, and many times the problems would only affect a single classroom.
His spokesperson estimated that "in the hundreds, not the thousands" of schools will be impacted.
According to the former head of the education department's civil service, Sunak cut the amount of money allocated each year for school repairs in half while serving as finance minister, despite requests for a twofold increase from authorities.