Teachers and Unions need "can-do attitude" to reopen schools, says Children's Commissioner

9 August 2020, 10:12

By Seán Hickey

The Children's Commissioner for England told LBC that everyone in the education sector must work towards reopening schools to protect vulnerable children.

Anne Longfield explained that "about 40% of children weren't going online for 2 hours and when you looked at disadvantaged children that went up to 90%," during lockdown, and she told Andrew Castle that the education gap will only get wider if children don't go back to school.

"There's about a million kids that just don't have the tech or the broadband to get online," she said, reinforcing that we cannot do remote learning for every student.

The Children's Commissioner for England added that "the biggest way the disadvantage gap opens up is during the school holidays," and told Andrew to think of what the summer holidays will do for widening the gap.

"If they started behind they'll end up further behind," she said.

Andrew noted that some teachers unions have been reluctant to support a return to schools amid the risk of a second wave of coronavirus. He asked Ms Longfield if there's "a dispute coming at exactly the wrong time."

The Children's Commissioner said that reopening schools will benefit vulnerable children
The Children's Commissioner said that reopening schools will benefit vulnerable children. Picture: PA

"Everyone involved to be very can-do about this," she began, telling Andrew that the reopening of schools will greatly benefit disadvantaged children. Ms Longfield told Andrew that "vulnerable children need that outlet and need that space."

She worried that if children cannot return to school, those from disadvantaged backgrounds "might never come back, they might never see that school is something for them, and that's a concern."

Ms Longfield strongly felt that schools are "definitely on route to reopen," and the government needs to work with schools to ensure they're as safe as possible, with tracing and social distancing in place.

She accepted that "it may be that sometimes some schools might have to close," in the event of local lockdowns but they must open to provide a service to children who need it most.