They have lost almost a year of learning, in addition to the toll of social isolation on their mental health, and there’s little evidence to suggest that Gavin Williamson – or Boris Johnson – grasps this.
And, while this newspaper’s recent decision to demand Mr Williamson’s resignation wasn’t taken lightly, not least because of the unique circumstances facing the country, a fresh start is desperately needed.
After the Prime Minister bought the Government some time by deferring the reopening of some schools until at least March 8, he should use this interlude to put a credible Education Secretary in place.
It is clear Mr Williamson has long lost the confidence of teachers, families and pupils – not even the most loyal of Tory backenchers have been endorsing him – and the safe reopening of schools can’t be left to chance any longer.
This is also the moment, this newspaper ventures respectfully, for the Government to be utilising the expertise of ‘outsiders’ who are desperate to help make a difference.
People of the calibre of Anne Longfield, the outgoing Children’s Commisioner, and former Education Secretaries of the calibre of Alan Johnson and Justine Greening who know how the DfE works – or does not in this instance.
The knowledge that such experience was being used, and being called upon by an Education Secretary willing to work with schools and LEAs rather than against them, would also show that the Government was learning from its mistakes and open to new ideas.
After all, the great many education challenges and opportunities facing the North were significant before Covid struck. They’re now even more profound – and urgent.
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