I am writing as a very concerned parent and member of the campaign group UsforThem.
On Tuesday 14th, December 2021, the Welsh Health Minister Eluned Morgan confirmed she has not yet made a decision whether schools will reopen in January 2022.
At that point, the government did not perhaps know the damage that would be caused by this action.
The schools’ closures in 2020/2021 have caused massive and devastating collateral damage to our young generation. This has been well documented. Report after report has highlighted the catastrophic academic, social and mental health effects on children, especially the most vulnerable:
- Primary pupils were around 2-3.5 months behind when they returned in March 2021. Socioeconomically disadvantaged children were around a month further behind. (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/994364/Understanding_Progress_in_the_2020_21_Academic_Year_Initial_Report_3_.pdf)
- SEN children who are also disadvantaged are around seven months behind in literacy and eight months behind in behaviours needed for learning. (https://www.nfer.ac.uk/the-reported-effects-of-the-pandemic-on-pupils-in-special-schools-and-colleges-and-what-they-need-now)
- 63% of teachers surveyed think children moving to secondary school in September 2021 will struggle more with speaking and understanding than those who moved before the pandemic. (https://ican.org.uk/media/3753/speaking-up-for-the-covid-generation-i-can-report.pdf)
- One in six children reported having a mental health disorder in 2020 compared to one in nine in 2017. (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/09/01/uk-school-closures-second-longest-europe-past-18-months/)
- Lockdown has led to an “explosion” of children with disabling tics disorders, and Tourette’s syndrome, the president of the British Paediatric Neurology Association has said. (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/02/13/explosion-children-tics-tourettes-lockdown/)
The gap between the wealthy and disadvantaged has widened and may never be recoverable. It is a tragedy for a young generation robbed of their potential. All children are now, to some extent, vulnerable. They live in a state of constant uncertainty over whether their schooling will continue, are blamed for ‘killing granny’, are deprived of interaction with extended family and friends, and suffer poorer physical health with restricted access to sports for an extended period.
Unicef stated: “The benefits of keeping schools open far outweigh the costs of closing them, and nationwide closures of schools should be avoided at all costs”.
Yet- here we are again, with the mood music indicating that schools will close again in January.
Remote learning in the previous terms was an unmitigated disaster for thousands of children in Wales- there can be no pretence that it is a substitute for face-to-face schooling.
I despair at the low regard in which the government and opposition parties alike appear to hold our children. The entire premise of the COVID-19 response has been ostensibly to ‘protect the vulnerable’. Children are also vulnerable. Yet their right to education is now contingent on hypotheses about their role in the transmission of a virus that does not affect them directly.
I implore you to oppose school closures and protect our young people. As a parent, I will not be able to forgive or forget this willful destruction of our children’s futures.