One of the consequences of that approach – designed both to prevent a repeat of the appalling scenes in northern Italy of overwhelmed hospitals and to buy more time for scientists and doctors to better understand and treat the virus – was the effective closure of schools to all but a very small number of pupils.
At the time, that was the right decision; given that by April English hospitals were treating 17,000 Covid patients a day. Now with that number thankfully 96 per cent lower than the peak of the pandemic and our understanding of the virus much advanced, the time is right for a new political priority – that of reopening schools in full to restore the life chances of our young people. There is a growing political consensus on the matter and as Boris Johnson has put it, keeping schools closed a moment longer than necessary is “socially intolerable, economically unsustainable and morally indefensible”.
Teachers, schools and parents have generally gone above-and-beyond since March to rise to the challenge of home-schooling in the wake of an unprecedented situation but it is no substitute for the interaction, structure and staff expertise provided by a normal school day and allows far too many children to fall through the educational cracks.
The consequences of lockdown on the education and job prospects of today’s young people will play out over years, if not decades, to come. In the immediate term, this Thursday’s A-level results are likely to see similar grade downgrading that has proved so controversial in Scotland; affecting if and where children can go to university and what they will be able to study through no fault of their own.
Such a situation must not be allowed to happen again.
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