Guy Fawkes once set the Houses of Parliament alight in November but this week the seat of government was enflamed by news that November could be the time when we see schools finally fully reopen after the coronavirus closures.
In the week that primary schools reopened to Reception, Year 1 and Year 6, the Commons education committee was presented evidence on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on education and children's services and MPs were told assumptions that all pupils will return in September may be wrong.
Former education minister David Laws, who now chairs the Education Policy Institute, was speaking to MPs about when schools might fully reopen 10 weeks after schools were closed.
The BBC reported Mr Laws urged that ministers make plans and give guidance to schools for "a situation where there may be some home learning for a lot of pupils for a very long time".
“There's a temptation to think we are in a kind of home learning now and hopefully all back in September. Sadly we may end up with considerable disruption to school in September, October and November."
The committee was told the Department for Education needed to publish its guidance on how schools would look in September very soon. For the sake of schools and parents.
Alison Marr, a mum of three girls from Lewes, East Sussex, told School Guide:
“We found out just before half term that we mustn’t expect our kids to be back this academic year. I had just got my head around the fact that we have another term of distance learning plus the long summer holidays to manage, potentially with no foreign travel. And now… this. I can’t fathom that we might go into the new academic year with the girls only back part time and me still managing the bulk of learning. I am genuinely unsure how we will cope as a family if this goes on into the autumn. I need to know the facts so I can mentally prepare.
We have to have clarity on when and how the majority of children will go back to school. I need to mentally prepare.
Alison, Mum of 3
However, Clemmie Stuart, mum of one boy, from Winchester, told us she wasn’t remotely surprised.
“Mentally I'm geared up for next Easter. Winter flu season might send things a bit crazy again. So November is good news to me.”
With school disruption potentially reaching – and overtaking – the six-month mark, Anne Longfield, the Children's Commissioner for England, also highlighted this week fears over eight million pupils, the number currently lacking a normal school schedule, being in danger of not reaching their potential.
She warned as more of society and many parents go back to work, there would be a fall-off in the numbers of those engaging in learning from home, adding that school drop-outs will only increase.
"As things become more interesting, the shops will be open soon and many kids could spend two and half months browsing in Primark and not going to school," she said.
Longfield called for the government to hurry up and decide on whether to run summer schools to help pupils catch up, warning that time is running out for them to solidify and announce plans.
She told a meeting of the Commons Education Select Committee: "With the summer schools, I think there’s a window of only about two weeks before they start to run out of time, and that’s a really urgent to-do list on everyone’s part who has the power to make it happen," she said.
David Laws agreed. “"Regardless of any slowness or errors to date, there is now a real need for a proper coherent plan, including for catch-up that schools can implement as soon as possible. We need announcements by early July at the very latest so that schools can plan for new arrangements.”
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