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Thu, 2 July 2020

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Teachers urged to curtail summer holiday as experts warn of looming child mental health crisis

Teachers urged to curtail summer holiday as experts warn of looming child mental health crisis
2 min read

Teachers are being urged to curtail their summer holiday to help get schools ready to re-open, as experts claim the UK faces a looming child mental health crisis.

Many schoolchildren will need urgent support from psychologists because of the large-scale disruption to their lives and education as a result of lockdown measures, the Observer reports

Educational psychologists advising the government told the newspaper ministers face a huge bill for professional help for youngsters in urgent need, and that the longer schools remain shut the worse the crisis will become.

Dr Gavin Morgan, who sits on the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group – which feeds into the Sage advisory group – said: “There is going to be a hell of a lot of work to be done from teachers and educational psychologists. We are going to have to pick up a lot of broken pieces and put things back together.”

Meanwhile, five former education secretaries have backed a plan by former Labour schools minister Lord Adonis to ensure children can return to the classroom in September. 

According to the Sunday Times, the measures include calls for an army of retired and supply teachers to stand in for teachers who are shielding or sick, the hiring of church halls and mobile classrooms to enable more children to be taught safely, and schools to be stocked with large supplies of hand sanitiser, facemasks and thermometers.

The plan is supported by former coalition government minister David Laws, ex-Labour education secretaries Alan Johnson and David Blunkett and former Tory education secretary Lord Baker.

“I see no reason why we cannot have a complete return of schools in September subject to proper organisation and leadership by the government,” Lord Adonis told the Sunday Times.

“We did this kind of planning in the Second World War; we should be able to do it in 2020.”

Studies suggest getting children back to school poses a low risk to the spread of coronavirus and Boris Johnson confirmed this week that it was his intention to have all children in England return to the classroom by September.

Wales and Scotland are yet to confirm plans, but initial proposals to have Scottish children return for some learning in August is dependent on expert advice sought by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Unions have expressed fears about the impact on teachers, including risks to their health and safety.

Kevin Courtney, co-general secretary of the National Education Union, said he supported much of Lord Adonis's plan, but added: “I do not think that it is sensible asking people to give up their contractual holiday. Teachers have been working really hard in this period.”

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