Boris warned further school closures would have ‘permanent scarring effect’ on children

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Professor John Van Reenen of the London School of Economics (LSE) said that kids are unlikely to make up for the lost learning that occurs as a result of school closures. He also said children from disadvantaged backgrounds are likely to be impacted more severely. Speaking to Express.co.uk, the economist said that while the impact on parents – who would have to take time away from work to homeschool their children – is significant, he said it is the effect on children which is the most worrying.

He said: “The effect on the kids themselves – this is where it’s much more worrying to me.

“There’s the mental health type of stuff, but also there’s just the lost learning.

“Kids just don’t learn as much when they’re at home.

“We also know that the kids who have actually missed out a lot when they do online schooling are poor kids from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“A lot of them, after the lockdowns, didn’t go back to school full time either. They spent more time at home.

“So there is a big effect on equality I think.

“There’s the overall effect over the kids lifetimes and there’s a differential effect on kids who are disadvantaged who miss out on learning – they’re the most vulnerable ones.”

Speaking about the long term impact of the closures over the last two years, he said: “The sad truth is that many kids will never get it back.

“The only way you could make a big dent in that would be these national tutoring scheme ideas, where you give X resources in giving kids extra help to try and get them to catch up – you know, extra lessons, giving kids bespoke help.

“But I don’t think it’s ever going to fully make up for what’s been lost.

“I think it will be different for some kids: some kids actually like being at home, a very small minority, or if you go to a really good school.

“But there will be a lot of kids who will have a permanent scarring effect for the rest of their lives.”

Christine Farquarson, a Senior Research Economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, echoed Dr Van Reenen’s comments, calling school closures a “hugely regressive policy”.

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Speaking to Express.co.uk, 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.”

She added: “A lot of the most disadvantaged and a lot of the most vulnerable children have fallen out of touch with the system and the system has sort of lost track of them.

“And so we’re quite worried about what the outcomes look like for that group.”

While Dr Van Reenen acknowledged that school closures would only take place as a last resort, he urged the Government to do more to “make up for that lost learning”.

He said: “Of course, this is not operating in a vacuum. No one wants kids not going to school.

“But if it does happen, the reason is because Omicron will be completely out of control.

“The school lockdown will be the very last thing that happens.

“The Government will do everything before it does that – so if it has to do that, then things are going to be pretty bad.

“We need to do a lot more than we’re doing to make up for that lost learning, especially for those kids from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

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