THE Department for Education (DfE) has admitted it held a social gathering of staff last December in contravention to coronavirus social distancing rules.

It comes after The Mirror reported that former education secretary Gavin Williamson threw a party and delivered a short speech at the event, which took place while London was in Tier 2, which banned any social mixing between households.

A spokeswoman for the department said: “On December 10 2020 a gathering of colleagues who were already present at the office – and who had worked together throughout the pandemic, as they couldn’t work from home – took place in the DfE office building in London at a time when the city was subject to Tier 2 restrictions.

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“The gathering was used to thank those staff for their efforts during the pandemic.

“Drinks and snacks were brought by those attending and no outside guests or supporting staff were invited or present.

“While this was work-related, looking back we accept it would have been better not to have gathered in this way at that particular time.”

The news emerged after senior aides to Boris Johnson joked about a Downing Street Christmas party just days after staff are alleged to have held a festive gathering in breach of lockdown rules.

The Prime Minister’s then press secretary Allegra Stratton and adviser Ed Oldfield, along with other aides, were filmed joking about a “fictional” party in December 2020.

On Tuesday, Downing Street again insisted there was no Christmas party and coronavirus rules had been followed at all times.

But Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called on Johnson to “come clean and apologise”, adding that for aides “to lie and to laugh about those lies is shameful”.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said the PM should resign if the reports are confirmed.