Boris Johnson 'in awe' of how parents have handled coronavirus crisis

30 January 2021, 10:14 | Updated: 30 January 2021, 13:35

Children in England will be learning at home until march, the government has said
Children in England will be learning at home until march, the government has said. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

Boris Johnson has said he is "in awe" of the way parents have risen to the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic as schools remain closed to most children.

The Prime Minister wrote an open letter to parents, carers and guardians to say they have responded "magnificently", with the Government having faced sustained criticism for its handling of education during the pandemic.

This week he said classrooms in England would remain closed to all but the vulnerable and children of key workers until March 8 at the earliest, having been closed since the Christmas break.

Wales is planning an earlier phased return to school starting after the February half-term, providing Covid-19 rates continue to fall.

In a tweet, the PM said: "I want to say a huge thank you to the parents, carers and guardians of children.

"Millions of you have coped with the pressures of home schooling and childcare while also doing your day jobs.

"And by staying at home you are, quite literally, saving lives."

In the open letter, Mr Johnson wrote: "I'm particularly in awe of the way the parents, carers and guardians of children have risen to the unique challenges with which you have been faced.

"Whether you've been welcoming a baby into the world without all the usual support networks, finding new ways to entertain a restive five-year-old when the soft play centre is shut and playdates are but a distant memory, or steering a teenager through the emotional stresses and strains of these unprecedented times, you have been dealt the trickiest of hands yet played it magnificently."

He insisted the Government is "doing everything we can to support you", with laptops being sent to schools and the extension of free school meals after pressure from critics.

"And when all this is over we're going to be putting hundreds of millions of pounds into nationwide catch-up programmes so that nobody gets left behind," he added.

"In the meantime, I want you to know that you are doing a great job."

The PM said in the letter that he joined a virtual year 6 lesson and it was "obvious just how much effort the mums and dads at home were putting in".

He also said 876,000 laptops have been sent to schools so children can learn online, and that the government has "committed to free school meals... to everyone who needs them for as long as children are at home".

Mr Johnson told parents they are "doing great for your own kids, and... for the whole country too".

"You are buying time for our army of vaccinators to protect the vulnerable," he adds.

"You are paving the way back to normality and you are, quite literally, saving lives. And for that I cannot thank you enough."

Shadow education secretary Kate Green called for greater help for families, saying the Prime Minister's "warm words" are "no substitute for real support".

"Four weeks into this lockdown hundreds of thousands of children remain without laptops the Government has promised," the Labour MP said.

"Parents are stressed trying to juggle work and supporting home learning, while the Government has refused Labour's call to give parents the right to request flexible furlough."

Earlier this week, the Duchess of Cambridge revealed parenting during lockdown has left her "exhausted" and joked about her children recoiling in "horror" when she became their hairdresser.

Kate spoke candidly about the challenges of looking after Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis during a light-hearted chat with a group of parents and revealed husband William was her biggest support during the pandemic.

The duchess also urged families to "reach out to loved ones and friends" to help them deal with their mental health.

When asked to rate her maths ability, the duchess gave herself the score of minus five.

Kate took part in a discussion with three parents, whose children attend Roe Green Junior School in Kingsbury, north-west London, alongside headteacher Melissa Loosemore.

As part of a "show and tell" exercise during the video call on Tuesday, the headteacher instructed the group to write down answers to questions with the first request - "one word that describes parenting during this pandemic".

The future queen held aloft the word "exhausting" while others joined in with similar sentiments including "hectic", "patience" and "challenging".