United Kingdom

Primary pupils MUST go back after half-term, insists children's tsar

The children’s tsar has said that primary school pupils must be allowed back in class after the February half-term – and last night backed calls to prioritise Covid jabs for teachers.

Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner, spoke out as an exclusive poll for The Mail on Sunday found almost two-thirds of parents want children to return to school next month.

The poll of 1,002 parents by Mumsnet also found that 75 per cent of parents believed that the school closures had been harmful to children’s education.

Forty per cent of parents of private school pupils said youngsters are actively engaged in five or more hours per day in school work, compared with just 12 per cent of those at state schools.

The poll of 1,002 parents by Mumsnet also found that 75 per cent of parents believed that the school closures had been harmful to children’s education

Nine out of ten parents said children’s social lives had suffered, with 78 per cent saying school closures have been harmful for pupils’ mental health.

Sixty-two per cent said that they wanted Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to reopen all primary schools and Year 11 and 13 classes after the February half-term break. Almost half said they wanted children back in school due to concerns over the impact the lockdown is having on their mental health.

Ms Longfield told this newspaper: ‘The evidence is now overwhelming that closing schools is bad for children’s wellbeing and attainment. That is why I don’t want schools closed for a day longer than necessary and why, since the start of the pandemic, I have urged the Government to do all it can to make sure schools are the last to close and the first to open.’

Nine out of ten parents said children’s social lives had suffered, with 78 per cent saying school closures have been harmful for pupils’ mental health

She warned many vulnerable children ‘slip out of sight during lockdown,’ adding: ‘Reopening schools must be a priority and Gavin Williamson was right to say he hoped to have all children back in the classroom before Easter.

‘For this to happen, Government need to start planning now so that this can be done safely. If all schools are to be open before Easter, primary schools will need to start going back after the next half-term.

‘Teachers need to be a higher priority for vaccines and we need testing regimes that schools have confidence in, alongside a rocket boost for catch-up funding, and an urgent acceleration of providing all schools with an NHS-funded counsellor.’

Liz Cole, co-founder of the Us For Them parent campaign group, said: ‘Most schools are doing their absolute best to do things remotely but nothing can replace the classroom learning experience.

‘I don’t think that we can justify the harm that we are doing to our children by keeping them out of school for so long.’

Ella Medina, a mother of three children, aged 11, 13 and 15, said her children were struggling to keep up with online lessons.

‘The delivery can be incredibly one-dimensional. It’s hard for the children to engage. I’m constantly having to hover over them to make sure they’re not switching to games or WhatsApping their friends. I think it is an absolute necessity that schools go back after the half-term, regardless of the Covid-19 situation. It is an essential service.’

Another mother, from Cambridge, who has a 12-year-old daughter and nine-year-old son, said: ‘My son is having no live lessons – just one assembly on Zoom each week. He is expected to log on and complete worksheets and watch videos from the Government’s Oak Academy which drones on.

‘He loses interest in minutes. My daughter is really struggling with it. We are trying to get her to submit one thing a day. She is really demotivated. She misses her friends. I’m worried about her ever being able to re-engage and catch up on what she has missed.’

Click here to visit Mumsnet 

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