Children's Commissioner tells LBC Covid testing is vital for keeping schools open

16 September 2020, 15:11

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

The Children's Commissioner has told LBC it is vital to get pupils back to schools to help make up for learning loss suggesting testing for Covid is essential.

Anne Longfield, the Children's Commissioner for England told LBC she was concerned that coronavirus could mean that vulnerable children could slip out of view.

Speaking to LBC's Shelagh Fogarty the Commissioner said she had "argued strongly" that kids should be back in schools.

She praised the fact schools were open again and urged education establishments to remain open branding keeping children in schools as "absolutely essential."

The Commissioner told Shelagh once children are in school and back in a structure they will be able to "make up the learning loss" and also get crucial "emotional support."

It comes as new Government figures are released which show almost nine in 10 pupils have attended schools in England since their full reopening this month.

Around 92% of state schools were fully open on Thursday September 10, and approximately 88% of students were back in class on the same day, the Department for Education (DfE) analysis suggests.

Schools are considered to be not fully open if they are unable to provide face-to-face teaching for all pupils for the whole school day and have asked a group of students to self-isolate.

Only 1% of schools said they were not fully open due to suspected or confirmed cases of coronavirus.

Ms Longfield told LBC she could understand the levels of nervousness around the reopening of schools.

Schools in England began welcoming back pupils in all year groups for the autumn term this month.

It is the first time many pupils have stepped into a classroom since March, when schools were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic - except for vulnerable children and those of key workers.

She said, "opening a school within a pandemic is a big thing," praising the work schools had done to be able to reopen safely.

But, she added "testing is key," adding schools wanted the process to be "local and fast."

Councils can fine parents £120 - cut to £60 if paid within 21 days - over a child's absence from school, with the threat of prosecution if they fail to pay.

The DfE has said fines for parents who refuse to send their children to England's schools this term will only be used as a "last resort".

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said the Government will continue to work with schools, local authorities and parents "to make sure as many children as possible attend school".

He said: "The best place for children and young people to learn is in the classroom, and it's encouraging to see that last week more than seven million pupils were back with their classmates and teachers at schools around the country.

"I do not underestimate the work staff have done to put in place the protective measures required to reduce the risk of transmission.

"But as the UK's chief medical officers have already made clear, the risk of catching coronavirus at school is low, meaning that the wider risks to children being out of school is, in fact, far greater."