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Express & Star comment: Essential for all to return to school

By Star Comment | Opinions | Published:

It is impossible to overstate the importance of all pupils returning to school in September.

Essential for all to return to school

As things stand, only a small fraction of youngsters across the region are attending school, even though schools have reopened for some year groups to attend classroom sessions.

Many more children are taking part in online classes, which are certainly worthwhile but in no way replicate the experience of actual face-to-face learning. Tragically, there are thousands of children who are receiving no education at all. These are youngsters who may under normal circumstances be considered the hardest to help.

Many of them may come from difficult homes. They may lack access to technology or require a level of support and supervision which is simply not possible away from the classroom setting. To some degree, all state school children will lose out as a result of the school closures, which it should be noted, were instigated for entirely the right reasons.

The important thing now is to make sure that our young people’s education does not become another casualty of the coronavirus pandemic. Measures are already being put in place to ensure our schools are safe for the return of large numbers of pupils for the new term. Classes will be grouped into ‘bubbles’ and year groups will be kept separate as part of plans to control and minimise infection. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has said that testing kits will be available in all schools from the start of the Autumn term, which can be taken home by children or staff who develop symptoms while on site but who would struggle to access a testing centre. The challenge for schools – while maintaining strict safety measures – is to ensure pupils return to a broad curriculum that will enable them to fully prepare for their exams next year.

This will not be easy, and it is crucial that all schools are given the support they need to ensure that things run as smoothly as possible once pupils return. With all the challenges facing the country after Covid-19, we cannot afford to have a lost generation of children.

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