Coronavirus: Government risks ‘failing a generation’ if schools not reopened soon, doctors warn

'It is our most vulnerable children, such as those from disadvantaged families or those with additional needs, who may suffer most', paediatrician warns

Vincent Wood
Thursday 18 June 2020 00:17
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Reduced bubble classes at Lea Forest Primary Academy
Reduced bubble classes at Lea Forest Primary Academy

The prime minister has been urged to publish a plan outlining how schools will return to business as usual amid fears lockdown measures could hold back an entire generation of children.

The government has been able to provide guidance for the return of workplaces, shops and even zoos as the nation emerges from lockdown - however the blueprint for the return to education for millions of children has remained vague with the government only asserting it hopes classes will resume in September.

Now 1,500 paediatricians have urged Boris Johnson to follow in the footsteps of officials overseeing education in Scotland and Wales and release his plans for a return to the classroom for the nation’s children.

In an open letter, the first to have ever been set up by Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, child health experts said: “School is about much more than learning. It is a vital point of contact for public health services, safeguarding and other initiatives.

“This includes access to mental health support, vaccinations, special therapies, free school meals, physical activity and early years services that help children get the best start in life.

“For many children and their families, these interventions are the difference between surviving and thriving. In their absence our already frayed safety net cannot function, and we risk failing a generation”.

Dr Liz Marder, a consultant community paediatrician working in Nottingham who signed the letter, said getting children back into education “has to be a priority if we are to avoid further damage to the health, well-being and life chances of so many of our young people”

She added: ”Up until now, very few children have been directly affected by COVID-19. But, indirectly, many children and young people have suffered enormously from the impact that the pandemic has had on their daily lives.

“It is our most vulnerable children, such as those from disadvantaged families or those with additional needs, who may suffer most.”

The Education secretary Gavin Williamson is expected to outline some plans for the return to schools later this week - after having had to backtrack on ambitions to ensure all primary school students get at least a month of classroom time before September.

Speaking to the commons during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesay, Boris Johnson said a "catch-up plan" will be laid out for children who have missed long periods of schooling.

He added: "That's absolutely crucial that we do that, we'll have a big catch-up plan that [the education secretary] is going to be announcing very shortly”.

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