United Kingdom

Youngsters in the North missing out on education

Children in the north are missing out on an education as Labour-run councils refuse to allow schools to reopen, a stark new poll has revealed. 

A survey of primary headteachers has found that just a third of them followed the Prime Minister's plan and managed to bring back Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 students back to class on Monday.

This dropped to as low as 12 per cent in the north-east of England and eight per cent in the north-west, where a large number of Labour-run councils refused to let their schools open. 

The survey of 10,000-plus schools was carried out by the National Education Union, which found 44 per cent of schools did not open more widely on June 1.

The poll found large regional differences on the number of schools reopening to pupils in reception, Year 1 and Year 6. 

Overall, 44 per cent of primary schools did not admit more children on June 1 - but in north-west England, only 8 per cent of schools opened to all priority year groups on Monday, according to the survey.  

Primary schools started to get up and running in England this week, with reception, years one and years six the first to return. Pictured, Stoneriase School near Carlisle

This comes after a UK charity chief told MPs that disruption in schools could still be ongoing in November, not end in September as some parents assume.  

David Laws, a former Lib Dem MP and Coalition minister now running education charity EPI, told the Commons education committee: 'There's a temptation to think we are in a kind of home learning now and hopefully all back in September. Sadly we may end up with considerable disruption to school in September, October and November.' He then warned of 'a situation where there may be some home learning for a lot of pupils for a very long time'. 

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: 'It is clear from our latest survey, marking the start of lockdown easing, that many schools intend to delay wider opening. It was always reckless of Boris Johnson to set an arbitrary date and expect schools to fall in line'.

Children's Commissioner Anne Longfield said yesterday the most disadvantaged young people faced 'immense' damage to their prospects, as they have less support at home and were missing out on crucial contact with teachers. 

She also highlighted the risk that sunny weather and shops reopening as curbs are eased could distract children from doing work. 

The dire message came as Ms Longfield gave evidence to the Commons education committee.

Primary schools started to get up and running in England this week, with reception, years one and years six the first to return.

However, the picture has been patchy across the country with unions raising safety concerns and some parents refusing to send offspring back. 

According to the National Education Union survey, more than two in five primary schools in England did not open their doors to more children.    

Ms Longfield told MPs yesterday of doubts that the most vulnerable pupils would ever resume their schooling properly.

Children's Commissioner for England Anne Longfield told MPs the most disadvantaged young people faced 'immense' damage to their prospects

'The shops will be open soon and kids could have spent two and a half months browsing Primark, but not been in school, so the other things that will actually be distractions will become more and more,' she said. 

'Those who are disadvantaged, who maybe have negative experiences of school, will have more time away from it. 

'Some head teachers have said to me they stay up worrying about whether those children will ever come back because the leap that will need to get them back into school will be so vast.' 

Highlighting the long-term damage of the lockdown, Ms Longfield said unless attendance levels rise eight million children will have been out of school for six months by September. 

'The scale of other children that will not be reaching their potential because of this time out of education is also immense,' she said. 

'If we stick to the numbers of classes that are going back right now that could be eight million children that have been out of school for six months by September.'  

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