COVID is causing not just a health and economic crisis, but an education catastrophe too.
Longer school closures will lead to massive learning loss, particular for poorer children.
The Government wants to get schools open again as soon as possibleCredit: Plain Picture
This will damage our national productivity and income, lead to worse mental health outcomes and reduce social mobility.
The government needs a five point plan for education recovery. Firstly, education must be the absolute number one priority when Covid cases are down.
Once those most at risk are vaccinated, the case for restricting children’s education is much weaker.
If necessary, we may need a phased return to school. If so, the youngest children should be back first – they pose the lowest health risk and can least easily learn online.
Secondly, the government must invest serious money on more catch-up classes, more small group tutoring, and recruiting top graduates into teaching.
Yesterday’s £300m from the PM is a start, but is a drop in the ocean when compared to the scale of the crisis. The government must think big, and invest big in our young people.
David Laws is a former schools ministerCredit: Wikipedia
Next comes vaccination. Health advice must guide us here, but after the top priority groups are vaccinated, we should consider teachers as a priority.
This is not just to protect education staff, but to protect children’s learning from teachers falling ill.
The fourth issue is wellbeing and summer catch up. In August, children in richer families will probably get good holidays and a chance to unwind.
But more vulnerable children are suffering increased mental health problems.
We do need to consider funding summer activities to engage children, get them playing sport again, and improve their wellbeing and confidence.
Finally, what of that minority of children whose education this last year has simply been non-existent?
Pretending their lost learning hasn’t happened won’t help them. We should consider giving these children a right to repeat a year in education.
The damage that Covid has done to education and child wellbeing is huge. For this generation’s sake, we must step up and match the scale of this challenge.