School closures: Parents slam Javid ahead of reopening confusion
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There has been speculation over whether or not schools will close this January, due to spiralling cases of COVID-19. Last year, the government insisted that schools were “safe”, before closing them one day after the start of term.
Christine Farquharson, a Senior Research Economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, told Express.co.uk that next year school closures could be particularly difficult, as parents can no longer rely on the furlough scheme.
This means many of them would be forced to decide between childcare and going to work.
She said: “Previously we had the furlough scheme, which covered women or men who had to take time away from work to care for dependants.”
“I think then you have a lot of people who are trying to do two jobs at the same time.
“They are trying to look after children who are doing their home learning, at the same time as they’re doing their actual work.
“You can just about imagine that for a person with a white-collar job and a flexible, understanding boss, who is able to work from home and can just burn the midnight oil to try and get their work done.
“Where that becomes much more difficult to imagine is people who are having to go out to work or people who have much tighter timelines or people who don’t have that flexibility or that quite lucky situation.
“So I think those people would be facing a really horrible choice.
“It’s difficult to think what you’d actually have to do in that situation, whether you’d have to take some form of unpaid leave – if your employer is even willing to offer you that – and if you can even afford to do that.
“You may have to rely on friends or family to look after your kids, if you have them available, and if they’re not super vulnerable.”
Ms Farquharson suggested that this issue might force the government to expand the definition of “key workers”, who have previously been allowed to send their children to school even when they are closed to the general public.
She said: “There have always been exemptions for essential workers, for their children to go into childcare, so I think you would have to make that a really very broad category and make it so it includes everybody who isn’t able to look after their children and work.
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“But then you end up in a situation where an awful lot of people are saying, ‘well that’s me’.”
Ms Farquharson, who authored a report during the first lockdown about the impact of school closures, emphasised the “damage” to children’s education that would occur as a result of closures, calling it a “hugely regressive policy”.
She said: “Anything that we do which closes schools, children are going to lose out.
“And what’s really worrying is we know that the most disadvantaged children are going to lose out the most.
“It’s a hugely regressive policy to close schools because there is so much that comes along with being in a classroom.
“There are so many resources and it’s just a much better learning environment, particularly for disadvantaged pupils, who often don’t have the resources that they need to learn effectively from home.
“It’s a very difficult situation and we’re in a place with the virus where there’s not really a ‘good option’ at the moment, because if we keep schools open you’re doing a lot of this by the backdoor and kind of doing a lot of it in quite a disruptive way, with individuals and teachers being forced to stay from home to isolate.
“If you do it across the board, you’re right back where we have been and you’re doing a lot of damage to children’s education in that way.”
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