Schools should be ‘top priority’

Education should be “prioritised over other sectors” if the country goes into lockdown again, Children’s Commissioner for England Anne Longfield has said in a new briefing paper. 

Her intervention came after large parts of the north of England were placed under a regional lockdown amid rising cases of COVID-19. 

It also comes amid growing concerns about learning lost during partial school closures, especially among the most disadvantaged children, who are less likely to have accessed remote education. 

The Government has said that reopening schools in September is a “national priority”. 

Cllr Teresa Heritage, Vice-Chairman of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “We know that many children will have been out of school for up to six months, which will have an impact on their mental wellbeing and development, and we support the Children’s Commissioner’s calls to keep schools open for as long as is possible. 

“Councils have been working closely with schools throughout the coronavirus pandemic to ensure they remain open for vulnerable children and families, and, where needed, councils have delivered vital IT equipment for children. 

“As we look to return to normal from September, councils will continue to work with all schools and local partners, but it will be essential that councils have the capacity and necessary data to play their full part in the Test and Trace programme. 

“Any local decision to close a school will need to be based on scientific advice.”

The Government has written to councils about funding for its ‘wellbeing for education return’ initiative, which will provide training to help staff support children and young people’s mental health and emotional wellbeing on their return to education in September – something for which the LGA has been calling.

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