CHILDREN’S COMMISSIONER Anne Longfield has accused the Government of prioritising the reopening of pubs over the education of Britain’s kids.
Ms Longfield warned children will end up with huge gaps in their education and have been “forgotten” as ministers dumped plans to get all primary school kids back in class before the holidays.
She told BBC Radio 4: “It is going to be difficult (to get kids back to school), these are huge challenges.
“But let’s look at some of the things the Government has prioritised over recent months at vast scale and speed – the measures to save jobs, the 4,000-bed hospitals, propping up the economy.
“All of those things have happened in a way that is unimaginable.”
Children in reception, year one and year six were allowed to return back to school on June 1 with strict new social distancing measures in place and kids who will sit GCSEs and A-level next year will get time with teachers.
But ministers ditched promises to get all primary schools reopen before the summer break have been ditched, as primaries struggle to enforce new measures – including limiting class sizes for 15 pupils.
New figures released by the Department for Education revealed only 52 per cent of schools who normally cater to those years groups opened up in the week up to June 4.
The strict rules mean many schools simply don’t have the space to bring more kids back to classrooms, and ministers have failed to provide an alternative.
Ms Longfield said the Government needed to harness the same “level of will and determination” they have used to galvanise getting resources to the NHS and rescuing the economy to save children’s futures.
She added: “Without it, I’m worried education hasn’t had the priority the economy has had and business and jobs or even the NHS.
“I also think children are in danger of being forgotten in this lifting of lockdown.
“We’re seeing a situation where theme parks are going to be open in a months time, shops, pubs and restaurants but still children are not back in school.”
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is expected to make a statement in the House of Commons today about how the reopening of some primaries has gone and why other students will be kept out of classrooms.
Conservative MP and Chair of the Education Select Committee Robert Halfon said urgent action was needed to stop an educational divide between rich and poor widening further.
He told Radio 4: “People worry about the pandemic but there might be in the future an epidemic of educational poverty, a growing digital divide and safeguarding problems for vulnerable children.
“I think the government should definitely think again on this and continue with a phased reopening of schools.”
Mr Halfon has been fighting for the catch-up premium which would help children who have been left behind because of lockdown make-up for lost time.