She’s an outstanding Yorkshirewoman, proud to still live in the county of her birth, who has a greater grasp of the challenges facing schools, and the impact of a lost year of learning as a result of Covid, than most leaders – certainly the current Education Secretary.
Just like Justine Greening, the Rotherham-born former Education Secretary, and Robert Halfon, the current chair of Parliament’s Education Select Committee, Ms Longfield had already identified the scale of the North-South schools long before the Covid pandemic changed Britain.
However it has become even more pronounced over the past 12 months and that there now needs to a clear plan to help pupils, of all ages and abilities, to catch up on missed lessons in key skills – and also other opportunities – so that they have the best chance of fulfilling their potential.
The reopening of schools, possibly as early as next month, will be a start – but just that. What is required is a catch-up plan, greater support for disadvantaged areas and more measures to address systemic funding imbalances so the skills agenda does, in fact, drive Britain’s recovery.
And the question is how to achieve this when the Department for Education was reluctant to engage on this issue – one that goes to the heart of the Northern Powerhouse agenda – before the Covid pandemic exposed wider leadership failings. As such, the Government must not allow the expertise of the Children’s Commissioner to go to waste. Quite the opposite. Downing Street should ask Anne Longfield to spearhead a task force to transform the North’s schools. Prime Minister, please make that call now.
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