Great Britain

Schools must NEVER shut down again if Covid cases spiral, watchdog warns

SCHOOLS must never close again if Covid numbers spiral out of control, the Children’s Commissioner for England has said.

Dame Rachel de Souza said it was right to close down schools as the pandemic first hit the UK when scientific dictated it was necessary.

But she insisted: “I never want to see schools closed again. It’s really important. The harms done of losing education are immense.”

Earlier this year she launched The Big Ask survey which sought the views of children themselves about what they thought of school.

More than half a million children completed the survey over April and May, making it the largest survey of children of its kind.

She said the study found “children like school’ and “realised how sitting in front of the computer is no proxy for being with a teacher”. 

“A young lad told me how he wasn’t seeing his friends, he wasn’t at school, he felt absolutely terrible. He was bewildered, didn’t know what to do.”

“I remember a girl in Gateshead, Year Seven, who was really upset, telling me, ‘I’m scared, I don’t know how to make friends. I’m not sure how to any more’.”

The Children’s Commissioner was speaking as she was launching a report on children’s mental health which is calling for a support to get kids back on track.

She is calling for a comprehensive catch-up package for schools and an urgent focus on improved services for children struggling with attendance and consequences of the pandemic

There should also be a voluntary fully-funded third session in the school day for catch up support and activities.

“Everybody’s realised just how important schools are to kids’ lives,” she said.

Writing in The Sun in March, Dame Rachel warned of a “lost generation” of children as a result of Covid.

“The consequences of shutting children away for the best part of a year are obvious,” she said.

“We have a children’s mental health epidemic. Many have fallen behind at school.

“Some younger children have lost basic social skills. The most vulnerable have often fallen out of sight. Sometimes it feels like the future of a whole generation is on the line.”

Britain will be plunged back into ‘another FULL lockdown’ if vaccine-busting Covid arrives, Cabinet minister warns

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