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Schools closures: what can be done to support children?
04th January 2021
Tonight the Prime Minister announced that schools will close from tomorrow, as part of national lockdown restrictions. We are continually grateful to teachers, school staff and countless others for their efforts in supporting children and making tough decisions throughout this pandemic.
While TLG acknowledges this has been a difficult decision to make, TLG continues to call for the wellbeing of all children to be kept at the heart of every Government decision.
In particular, TLG wants to see lessons learned from the original lockdown in March when the disadvantage gap widened. It also highlighted the digital divide, put extra financial pressure on low-income households and impacted the emotional wellbeing of children across the UK. Unless urgent additional action is taken, on top of measures already put in place, those same consequences will be aggravated even further over the forthcoming weeks, impacting children for years to come.
We have a number of concerns around how school closures will affect children. We will look deeper into these over the coming days, but a summary of some of our initial concerns are:
> While vulnerable children are still allowed to attend school, in the first lockdown very few did; additionally, there has not yet been any flexibility given to schools to permit children who do not meet the criteria, but teachers know are vulnerable and at risk, to attend
> The education system is reportedly the largest single source of referrals to social services for safeguarding and child protection concerns. When children are not in schools, teachers are unable to properly monitor their wellbeing and safety and raise any concerns in the appropriate way
> There was previously mixed success with engagement in online learning, with some reports of little engagement. This was more so with pupils with limited access to IT, vulnerable children, pupils with SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) and pupils in receipt of Pupil Premium (NFER, 2020)
> Home schooling is harder for those with limited access to physical resources, particularly those who have limited or no digital access; the Government’s laptop and broadband programmes must be rapidly expanded to reach every child without digital access
> School closures are particularly tough on children do not have much space at home, where finding a quiet area to work is a challenge
> The re-closure of schools marks another huge and sudden change in the lives of children across the UK; children are still adapting to the re-opening of schools, after the initial closure, and this change will trigger even more emotional health challenges to a generation who are already struggling
> Children will need time, understanding and continued emotional and pastoral care during the school closures, the eventual transition back into school and for the foreseeable future afterwards; while there will be important questions asked about how children can catch up academically and ensuring every child is at the same level, it is so important that pastoral care is made a priority
Unless action is taken to mitigate the above, the education disadvantage gap will widen even further to catastrophic levels during this second round of school closures, as well as children’s wellbeing continuing to decrease at a devastating rate.
Please keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter for future updates about how TLG will continue to support vulnerable children within our Education Centres during this time, as well as our plans to raise awareness on a national scale of the impact of school closures on vulnerable children.
Before coming to TLG, Beth worked as a Fundraising Project Manager for poverty-relief charity Christians Against Poverty. Beth also has expansive experience in the political sector. Beth is a season ticket holder at Huddersfield Town and enjoys hiking through the Yorkshire countryside followed by a local ale in the pub.