Coronavirus UK Updates: Ministers urged to do homework to stop school closures turning into a skills crisis

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Coronavirus UK Updates: Ministers urged to do homework to stop school closures turning into a skills crisis
Coronavirus UK Updates: Ministers urged to do homework to stop school closures turning into a skills crisis

Spare a thought for Blackpool councillor Kath Benson, who has the unenviable brief of overseeing schools in one of the country’s most deprived areas.

“We’re all working at a hundred miles an hour and there is no light at the end of the tunnel,” she says.

Millions of families across the country are in the early stages of a stressful six weeks or more of home learning, and the challenge will be no greater than in Blackpool, where more than a quarter of children live in low-income families.

According to the Education Policy Institute (EPI), the town was already on the back foot before Covid: its most disadvantaged pupils are 26 months behind the national average, the widest gap in the country.

“It’s not going to be good, is it?” says Benson of the likely impact on children, a third of whom are entitled to free school meals. The community nurse says: “We’re pulling all sorts together. We had 24 hours’ notice.”

For a government committed to “levelling up”, the grim truth is that the pandemic is doing the opposite in educational terms.

With schools shut for the lion’s share of the 8.1m pupils in state primaries until mid-February at the earliest, most will have lost at least six months of face-to-face schooling, before taking into account the class “bubbles” closed by outbreaks when schools reopened in the autumn.

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