'Harmful' Covid school closures must never happen again, watchdog warns

21 September 2021, 06:49 | Updated: 21 September 2021, 06:57

The watchdog made the warning after almost two years of disruption to education
The watchdog made the warning after almost two years of disruption to education. Picture: Alamy
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

England's Children's Commission has warned schools must never close again if Covid numbers spiral out of control.

Admitting closing schools during the first lockdown was the correct move Dame Rachel de Souza said now she never wanted to see children removed from education again.

“I never want to see schools closed again. It’s really important. The harms done of losing education are immense.”

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

She warned the new Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi that the "harms done of losing education are immense," and that schools must never close should there be a future lockdown.

“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.”

“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’.”

Dame Rachel 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.