United Kingdom

Schools must never shut down again in future Covid lockdowns, watchdog warns 

Schools must never close again in future lockdowns, the new Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi was told yesterday.

Dame Rachel de Souza warned Mr Zahawi: ‘The harms done of losing education are immense.’

England’s Children’s Commissioner told how her Big Ask survey of youngsters’ views found that ‘children like school’ and ‘realised how sitting in front of the computer is no proxy for being with a teacher’. 

Dame Rachel de Souza called for a comprehensive catch-up package for schools, an urgent focus on improved services to children struggling with attendance and consequences of the pandemic, and a voluntary fully-funded third session in the school day for catch up support and activities

The watchdog said it was right in earlier lockdowns to close schools because this was what the science had dictated.

But she added: ‘I never want to see schools closed again. It’s really important.

‘Everybody’s realised just how important schools are to kids’ lives.

‘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. 

Britain's Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi leaves Downing street after attending the first post-reshuffle cabinet meeting in London on September 17

'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”.’

She called for a comprehensive catch-up package for schools, an urgent focus on improved services to children struggling with attendance and consequences of the pandemic, and a voluntary fully-funded third session in the school day for catch up support and activities.

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