Councils refusing to reopen primary schools risk 'lifelong damage'

Hardline local authorities with under-performing primary schools are among those refusing to reopen next week, as experts warn it may cause ‘lifelong damage’ to poor pupils

  • 23 local education authorities in England opposed to June 1 school re-openings
  • This includes deprived areas such as Manchester, Hartlepool and Knowsley  
  • Lee Elliot Major warned that each week away from school causes more damage
  • Teachers led by the NEU have resisted a return to school on safety grounds  

Councils that refuse to reopen primary schools next week risk causing ‘lifelong damage’ to some of the country’s most deprived children, experts warned last night.

Primary pupils achieve below-average Statutory Assessment Test results in 13 out of the 23 councils that have bowed to pressure from militant teaching unions to boycott plans to bring back Reception, Year One and Year Six classes on June 1.

A Mail on Sunday investigation also found that 14 of the hardline local authorities – including Bradford, Bristol and Liverpool city councils – have a higher than average number of schools rated as ‘inadequate’ or ‘requiring improvement’ by Ofsted.

A survey of 151 local education authorities in England by this newspaper found that 23 authorities are strongly opposed to opening up classrooms on June 1, with some dismissing the target date as ‘impossible’ and ‘unworkable’.

Councils that refuse to reopen primary schools next week risk causing ‘lifelong damage’ to some of the country’s most deprived children, experts warned last night

They include some of the most deprived areas in the country, with primary pupils in Manchester, Hartlepool and Knowsley almost twice as likely to get free school meals, according to official figures.

Lee Elliot Major, professor of social mobility at the University of Exeter, said: ‘We desperately need to get our most disadvantaged and vulnerable children back with their teachers as soon as possible.

‘Every extra week away from school increases the prospects of lifelong educational damage.’

Labour runs 17 of the refusenik councils, three are Tory-led and three have no overall control in their political make-ups.

Lee Elliot Major, professor of social mobility at the University of Exeter, said: ‘We desperately need to get our most disadvantaged and vulnerable children back with their teachers as soon as possible’. Pictured: Tables marked at Kempsey Primary School in Worcester showing where pupils can sit

There are currently plans to bring back primary school pupils in Reception, Year One and Year Six classes on June 1

Alarmingly for the Government, only 18 councils which responded to our survey said they were planning to reopen schools next week.

A further 77 councils have told headteachers they can decide what to do, while 28 authorities did not give an answer to our questions.

Teachers, led by the National Education Union, have strongly resisted a return to school on safety grounds. Ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have signalled that schools will remain closed until August at the earliest.

MP Robert Halfon, chairman of the Commons Education Select Committee, said: ‘It is extraordinary to see that in these areas where there is significant under-performance, with disadvantaged children suffering the most from the lockdown, that so many Labour council leaders and Left-wing teachers are most unwilling to get these vulnerable children back into school.

‘They are potentially destroying these children’s life chances.’

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