Government has to make schools reopening a priority: Children's Commissioner for England

9 June 2020, 11:33 | Updated: 9 June 2020, 13:37

By Seán Hickey

The children's commissioner said the government had to be make schools the top priority as concerns whether all UK schools will safely reopen in September surfaced.

The Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is set to make a statement today regarding the safety of schools across the country to reopen to more students, as many have announced they cannot allow any more children to return under current coronavirus guidelines.

Children's Commissioner for England Anne Longfield told Nick Ferrari this morning that she was "devastated for those children who now are uncertain over whether school will start in September." She told Nick that although the current system of a "mix of teacher time in classroom and home learning" is a good start, whether it can go on forever is another question.

Ms Longfield told Nick that the flaws in the current system are "particularly felt by disadvantaged kids" who "don't have access to the tech to be able to even get online" that privileged children do, and for this many children will fall behind while schools remain shut to more students.

She worried that there is currently "a lot of children struggling" and the government must do their best to work towards bringing these people back into institutions, simply because "school is a safe place for them" as well as being crucial for educational senses.

The Education Secretary expressed concern that all schools may not open before September
The Education Secretary expressed concern that all schools may not open before September. Picture: PA

Nick Ferrari pointed out to the Children's Commissioner that "we've got three months" to get schools fit for purpose, and rallied Ms Longfield by stating "let's get some porta-cabins, let's get some marquees" in an effort to get all children back to school by September.

Ms Longfield commended teachers and unions for the work they've done up until now to reopen schools, telling listeners that "they've transformed what they would see as schools to make them safe."

While supporting the work of teachers on the frontline, the Children's Commissioner said that it's now up to the government to finish the job. "That's what's needed now – that will and determination from government to make this a priority"

Addressing the need for government to focus on the economy, Ms Longfield argued that the education of the next generation is more important. She stated that working towards bringing all children back to school is "an investment in their future, without which we're risking a whole generation of children not having the skills to progress and prosper."

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