Call for schools to open in the summer after lockdown
Updated: Oct 13, 2020
Children’s commissioner says
schools will play an important role, but teachers and parents may oppose loss of six-week break.
Children of key workers at Oldfield Brow primary in Altrincham, Greater Manchester.Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
““Whether they are open to all or not, schools do have a really important role, especially for vulnerable children over the coming months.””
Schools should consider opening in some form over the six-week summer holidays to help children catch up with the curriculum – and to provide childcare for families who need to get back to work, the children’s commissioner has said.
Anne Longfield said that when schools are allowed to reopen, they could be vital during the long summer holidays.
She added: “It would be really valuable, if the scientific advice says they can, to have schools consider opening in some form over the summer holidays to help children learn and catch up but also to offer them a safe place to play and socialise with friends. It would also provide vital childcare for families who need to get their incomes back up as they, hopefully, return to work.”
Longfield said schools could bring in play, sports and youth workers to help supervise pupils.
‘It would be really valuable to have schools consider opening to help children learn and catch up but also offer a safe place to play and socialise,’ said Anne Longfield.Photograph: Rex
In a recent exercise to explore the public’s coronavirus concerns, the Commons petitions committee received numerous questions about whether schools should open in the summer holidays.
It asked the government to outline its plans for the school year, including whether the summer holidays could be cancelled.
Catherine McKinnell, the MP who chairs the committee, said: “Members of the public have been particularly concerned about education – how long schools will be closed, and some have queried whether school summer holidays will be changed as a result.”
Teachers, however, regard the six-week summer holidays as non-negotiable. The National Education Union has issued advice to its independent school members saying it had “major practical and contractual concerns” about the reasonableness of such plans.
The guidance points out that cutting short the holidays mean little or no break for staff in schools that have remained open for key worker and vulnerable children, and for teachers running online provision.
Margaret Morrissey, founder of the pressure group Parents Outloud, said: “At the moment schools are open and providing online work. After this is over, we all, including children, need real holidays. Cancelling the summer holidays will cause more confusion and disruption. We should aim for term starting in the first week in September and life going back to normal.”
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: “The government is very clear, as is the NEU, that the scientific evidence needs to be the deciding factor on this issue. The Department for Education would have to ensure any return to full opening of schools is well-planned and organised, but this is not the issue for now.”
A DfE spokeswoman said the government had announced a package of support last week, including additional funding and resources, to help schools deal with the challenges posed by coronavirus.
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