Lockdown is widening the education gap between haves and have nots

17 May 2020, 14:44

By Seán Hickey

A former Education Secretary told Maajid Nawaz that lockdown is undoing the last 10 years of trying to bring educational equality to the UK.

Former Labour Home Secretary and Education Secretary Lord David Blunkett was speaking to Maajid Nawaz in the midst of the row between teachers and the government over the reopening of schools in June.

The former Education Secretary began by telling Maajid that he "would have prepared for this in the last two months rather than the last week or so", but maintained that in his view the government is right to begin the phased reopening of schools.

Lord Blunkett insisted that the reopening of schools is not only a benefit to the community "in terms of education but also as a safe place to be" referencing the difficulties that children from disadvantaged backgrounds may have.

The former Labour MP shared a statistic that "only one in 7 have been receiving any sort of reasonable education" during lockdown and this should be a point of concern for the government.

Maajid went deeper into the point and wanted to know "what would happen to the most vulnerable children in schools if they remain closed for a longer period." Lord Blunkett told Maajid that "just after two months there's a real danger of these children falling back" in terms of educational level.

Lord Blunkett stated that schools need to reopen to close the educational gap
Lord Blunkett stated that schools need to reopen to close the educational gap. Picture: PA

"We've undone already 10 years of progress" Lord Blunkett claimed, referencing the work governments have done to bring education equality to the UK. The coronavirus lockdown has led to a widening of the gap between well-off and vulnerable children he said.

Lord Blunkett was quick to add that "some schools have done really well in providing some education" to vulnerable students but stressed that this isn't the whole picture. He pointed towards the importance of the return to school for younger students, telling Maajid that it is very difficult to provide education to children under the age of seven through an online platform.

Moving on to the question of testing and tracing, Lord Blunkett admitted that this is the right plan for the future but stressed that time is important in education and the UK cannot wait for an efficient track and trace platform before the schools reopen.

He argued that the potential for a second spike is low if schools are reopened and that the science indicates it is safe for schools to return, and so we should begin a phased reopening.

"We have evidence from those that have been in school of the possible transmission of the virus but it is extremely low" he said, claiming that by looking at how schools that have kept their doors open so far have operated, we can learn an effective way to reopen schools for the benefit of vulnerable children.

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