ON Monday, the day we have been awaiting for a very long time will be here at last.
Our schools are going to once more be the enthusiastic, lively and caring places we have missed for so long.
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This lockdown has been particularly hard for childrenCredit: PA:Press Association
Although there have been other lockdowns, this one has been particularly hard for children.
They have a shorter set of life experiences to make sense of what has happened during this pandemic and a large chunk of their lives has now been spent learning out of school, separated from friends and teachers.
This is why we had to get them back into school as soon as we possibly could.
As our medical and scientific advisers have said, the risk to children from going to school and catching Covid is incredibly low.
But experts have warned about the impacts further time out of school could have on children’s and young people’s development, as well as on their health and wellbeing.
Thanks to the country’s efforts to stay home, and the fact we have already offered the vaccine to the highest- priority groups, we are now able to reopen school doors to all pupils.
Education Secretary Gavin William is overseeing kids’ return to schoolsCredit: Peter Jordan – The Sun
Experts have warned about the impacts further time out of school could have on children’s and young people’s developmentCredit: PA:Press Association
The Prime Minister has set out a roadmap for recovery, beginning with this longed-for return to school. This does not mean restrictions are over, but the end is definitely in sight.
Even so, I know there may be some parents who are preparing for Monday with mixed feelings.
I can totally understand this. We have become so used to following guide-lines, in order to protect the NHS and each other by staying in, that this now feels like a very big step indeed. So let me reassure you about what we are doing to make sure that it is a safe step.
The use of face coverings in secondary schools will be an extra layer of reassurance as students and their families settle into the testing programme.
This will be a temporary measure, reviewed at Easter. As will all the other safety measures that are already in place and which continue to be valid, including bubble groups, staggered start and finish times, increased ventilation and strict hygiene measures.
Testing is going to play a big part in making sure that we can reduce transmission of the virus throughout the community, and I urge parents to allow their children to take tests when they are offered.
The use of face coverings in secondary schools will be mandatoryCredit: PA:Press Association
I joined a class last week where kids were taking the tests under supervision, and they all thought it wasn’t as bad as they had imagined it was going to be.
Thanks to the hard work of heads and their staff, almost every single secondary school in England has its own testing operation.
Each one will be able to offer every student three tests on site, followed by twice-weekly testing at home thereafter.
The whole education world has pulled together throughout this pandemic and we owe our incredible teachers a huge debt of thanks for everything they have done to keep young people learning.
I would also like to thank parents for continuing to support their schools and staff. But perhaps most of all, I want to thank children and young people for their patience and resilience.
Everyone has been playing their part in getting the country back on its feet.
Getting children back to school is going to be a huge day for the country, but it is only the start of our recovery plan. Despite everyone’s best efforts, many children are going to need longer-term support if they are to make the educational progress they need to.
This is why we have appointed an Education Recovery Commissioner, Sir Kevan Collins, to come up with a plan for reducing these learning gaps as quickly and comprehensively as possible.
Young people cannot afford to wait any longer, so we are putting in place a range of immediate measures for schools, to start now, to recover lost learning.
We are spending £1.7billion on an unprecedented prog-ramme of activities and support to help children who have fallen behind to catch up.
This includes one-to-one tuition and summer schools, and will allow schools and colleges to pick the option that is best for each individual child’s learning and wellbeing.
The feedback we have had from pupils who have already had some extra tutoring has been great.
We are all looking forward to Monday and I want everyone to enjoy this moment for what it is, and that is the beginning of the road back to normality.
Our cautious approach, and the broad range of safety measures, are going to enable children to hit the ground running.
We will all be helping to boost their learning, but most importantly we can let them get on with just being kids again.
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