Fears one in six schoolchildren may never catch up on lost time without support

Taz Ali, PA
·2-min read

One in six children may never be able to catch up on lost school time during the pandemic without the right support, England’s children’s commissioner has warned.

Anne Longfield said measures needed to be in place ahead of plans for schools to reopen next month for children who have been struggling with learning at home.

It comes after the Government is said to be considering a number of options – including summer schools, extended school days and shorter summer holidays – as part of catch-up plans for pupils who have missed out on learning due to Covid-19.

Ms Longfield supported these proposals, telling Sophy Ridge on Sky News: “Part of that really needs to be as well about helping children to build back those social skills and that confidence.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

“There’s a group of children who won’t make up the time they’ve lost, these are the ones who started behind, who are struggling.

“Potentially about one in six children, if they don’t get that level of support and boost, won’t ever catch up during their time at school.”

She said she hopes to see primary schools reopen sooner than secondary schools – with the Government proposing a reopening date of March 8 – as trends across Europe show they can be managed.

Ms Longfield said: “Those children are less able to work at home remotely, that their parents need to be there because they need a greater level of care and support to learn.

“And they’re much less likely to pick up that level of infection or indeed potentially transmit.

“There are exam years as well that we need to look at for older children, but certainly for primaries there seems to be trend that actually smaller entities can be back open and can be managed.”

Child sat on a socially distanced table in a classroom
Pupils in England may return to schools on March 8 at the earliest (Jacob King/PA)

Meanwhile, Sir Kevan Collins, the education recovery commissioner overseeing the Government’s catch-up programme, said it will take four or five years for schools to recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Sir Kevan described the Government’s commitment of £1.3 billion in funding to support the recovery as a “good start”, but added: “That isn’t going to do the job.”

On measures to help children catch up, he told Times Radio: “I’m completely open to everything being on the table and extending the learning time for children does need consideration and does need examination.

“We’ve got to be careful though. If you just increase the time without increasing the quality the evidence is clear, that doesn’t deliver.

“You’ve got to increase the quality as well as the time.”