Prioritise schools over theme parks, government told

Children's commissioner says the reopening of schools must be the government's 'number one priority'

Charlotte Santry

Coronavirus: It is wrong for the government to reopen theme parks and pubs before pupils have returned to school, says children's commissioner Anne Longfield

The children's commissioner has criticised the government for planning to reopen theme parks, pubs and restaurants before many pupils will have returned to school.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Anne Longfield said education had not received the same priority as the economy, business, jobs or the NHS, and that this needed to change.

She said: "Children's education does matter as much as the economy and we need to invest in it. Otherwise there's a risk that childhood is just going to be furloughed."


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Online education is not a good enough substitute for being in classrooms, she said, highlighting the problems faced by disadvantaged children who may not have access to devices.

Coronavirus: The 'risk' of schools remaining closed

Ms Longfield added: "I think that children are in danger of being forgotten in lifting the lockdown. We're seeing a situation where theme parks are going to be open in a month's time, shops, pubs and restaurants – but still children not back in school."

Quoting health secretary Matt Hancock, who yesterday said that it would take "ingenuity" to return all pupils to school, Ms Longfield said "it will take an enormous challenge but it needs to be government's number one priority now".

She was speaking as education secretary Gavin Williamson was expected to announce that all primary pupils will no longer need to return to school before the summer holidays.

Robert Halfon, chair of the Commons Education Select Committee, said today that he believed this was the wrong decision.

He told the Today programme: "I think the government should continue with a phased reopening of schools because I think that too many disadvantaged children are not getting an education.

"We could have an epidemic of educational poverty and be damaging the life chances of hundreds of thousands of young people."

Mr Halfon said there needed to be a national strategic plan for school reopenings, and repeated calls for a catch-up premium and a "national army" of retired teachers, students and Ofsted inspectors in schools.

Mr Halfon also wants to see summer schools and a "serious national broadcasting" service offering education for several hours each day "that parents can access via a remote control".

 

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Charlotte Santry

Charlotte Santry

Charlotte Santry is deputy news editor at Tes

Find me on Twitter @CharlotteSantry

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