Great Britain

Kids hardest-hit by Covid chaos should be allowed to repeat the school year, ministers told

KIDS who have been hit hardest by coronavirus chaos should be allowed to repeat the school year, ministers have been told.

Professor Lee Elliot Major - who has advised Downing Street on social mobility issues - urged the government to “absolutely” consider the measure after the Education Secretary hinted schools could stay shut until Easter.

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It comes after Gavin Williamson said he “certainly hopes” schools will reopen by Easter - dashing hopes for a return after the February half term.

Boris Johnson told a Downing Street press briefing this evening that reopening schools was a top priority, insisting they will be the first to reopen when lockdown measures are eased.

But Prof Major told The Telegraph: “If you miss out on GCSE grades or A-level grades it can have a big impact on your life prospects.

“It’s not just about test scores. There is a different issue for younger children who miss out on a stage of development that they need. Our research has also found that there are larger learning losses for primary compared to secondary children.

"If you miss out on the key things like learning to read, it is very hard to recover. Lots of catch up programmes that have been attempted in secondary school haven't worked."

The Government last year promised to launch a £1billion “catch-up” plan for kids who had fallen behind in the first lockdown.

It was set to give schools cash for in-house tutors who could run extra classes for pupils throughout the academic year.

But with many kids sent home to self-isolate and schools closing this term, it is feared the programme has not been going ahead as planned.

The Social Mobility Commission has called for pupils to be allowed to retake a year of school, saying the amount of education kids have missed requires more than "sticking plaster solutions".

Ministers must "consider options such as allowing some children to retake a year, funded with extra resources", they said.

Prof Major said he first raised the issue with Downing Street officials last summer, following the previous period of school closures.

It comes after a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found one third of a year of education was lost while schools closed in developed nations.

Molly Kingsley, co-founder of the parent campaign group UsForThem, said that the situation is becoming “intolerable” for many families.

She said: “We are hearing a lot of parents ask the question: does the school year need to be repeated? To think you can replace schools with remote learning especially for very young kids is a fallacy."

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are determined to ensure that children continue to receive a high quality education during this pandemic, and our £1 billion Covid-19 catch up package is helping tackle the impact of lost teaching time.

“We have provided extensive support to help teachers and pupils access quality remote learning, and made £4.84 million available for Oak National Academy to provide video lessons in a broad range of subjects.

"The Government is also delivering 1.3 million laptops and tablets for disadvantaged young people, with 800,000 delivered to date.”

Schools will open at the 'earliest opportunity' and parents will get two weeks' notice, Gavin Williamson promises

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