Back in March, to protect public health and the NHS against the threat of Covid, the Government took the difficult decision to close our schools to all except the children of key workers, and vulnerable pupils. Although most pupils were no longer physically in school, learning continued online and in our homes. When it was finally safe for some schools to open again in June, many pupils were elated to be back in the classroom for a few weeks with their friends and teachers, before the summer holidays.
Now, as we near the start of the Autumn term and a new academic year, some may feel apprehensive after the last few months. But many more will be concerned that their children have missed out on vital education and social interaction, making it essential that children are able to return back to their classrooms and catch up. Following extensive guidance released by the Government to help schools prepare to welcome their year groups back and settle in, schools will be ready to open at the start of September. For children, their families and their general wellbeing it is important to maintain their education. This was highlighted by Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, whose role involves promoting the rights, views and interests of children. This month she released a briefing titled: ‘Putting children first in future lockdowns’. It placed particular emphasis on the need for all children to be back in school in September, for their wellbeing. She added “if a second wave occurs, children must be at the heart of coronavirus planning. That means schools must be the first to reopen and the last to close during any local lockdowns.”
Speaking to headteachers and visiting my local schools, it is clear that they are working incredibly hard in making sure their schools are prepared and are Covid-secure in time for September. One-way systems, keeping the same teachers, hand sanitising stations, outside lessons – all these and more are ways some schools are adapting and keeping education a priority.
We know that schools are more than just a facility that educates the next generation. They allow students to socialise, play, widen their worldview, experiment, and more. Schools in turn play a vital part in checking up on how children are doing and supporting them outside of their family bubbles. Our children have missed out on being able to go to school and this has been incredibly difficult for them and their parents and carers. This is especially true for those that work from home, many of whom have had to take on a new role in helping to educate their child.
During the pandemic, we have focused on the most vulnerable. As we begin to adjust our lives it is right that we focus on the health, wellbeing and futures of our children. The best way we can safeguard this and ensure our children have the best future possible is to send them to school. We must prioritise education and ensure that no child gets left behind - the most important institution we can open is schools and I look forward to a fresh, new academic year for our children.