MP COLUMN: We should be imaginative about term times at schools

The government suggests a partial return to school from early June. There are widely shared good reasons for wanting this.

Thursday, 21st May 2020, 5:00 am
North Tyneside MP Mary Glindon

The 2020 cohort of school pupils faces long-term damage to their prospects, despite the best efforts of parents’ home lessons and online teaching.

The continuing loss of vital education will increase the attainment gap and inequalities.

Parents looking after their children also cannot go to work themselves.

Resuming attendance at schools is the trigger for a wider resumption of normality.

But teachers are also rightly concerned about the safety of pupils, staff, and their families.

The precise timing of any relaxation depends on the R figure – the estimated reproduction rate of the virus. If it is below one, we are safer but if it goes above that there will be a new exponential growth of the lethal virus.

It seems to be lower in London but much higher in the north east. That is why many local council leaders are very wary of schools opening so soon. I share their fears.

We should be imaginative about term times. The reason for a long summer break is from the days when all hands were needed to bring in the harvest.

When schools return, we’re going to need a comprehensive package of academic and pastoral support to ensure that the already disadvantaged don’t suffer disproportionately in the future.

In the meantime, ministers, headteachers, parents, and unions should engage constructively about the need for both safety and education.

Mary Glindon, North Tyneside MP