Green Vix Lowthion warns that making the school day longer could have an adverse affect on children that are dealing with trauma from the covid-19 pandemic.
Children and teenagers have done a lot for society over the past 18 months. While the effects of Covid on some children are of course serious and lasting, their participation in lockdowns and restrictions has largely been to protect the older and more vulnerable in our communities. They have been yanked from social life and education settings at a time of critical development, and we as adults have a debt to repay as we move past the pandemic.
Regrettably, that does not seem to be on the horizon when it comes to education policy. A government leak suggests that children and teenagers are to be rewarded for their sacrifices with an extra half an hour of school every day, and it’s hard to see how this isn’t the worst of all worlds. It’s an expensive policy, it’s unlikely to close the learning gap, and it fails to confront the most acute harm of the last year: an unprecedented collapse of mental health among young people.
Students have already thrown cold water on the idea, and it’s not hard to see why. After a year of isolation, uncertainty and despair, what young people need is the time, space and opportunity to enjoy their freedom again, together. The campaigning coalition PlayFirstUK has called for this summer to go down in history as the “summer of play” with kids encouraged to get outside, be physically active and rocket boost their development and wellbeing through play, rather than through formal extensions to the school timetables, summer schools and online tutoring. As a teacher myself, I couldn’t agree more with these aims.
Of course, children weren’t the only ones affected by the pandemic’s impact on our schools. Parents left to homeschool their children for weeks and months on end, often while trying to hold down their own jobs, have taken a huge blow to their mental health too. Research conducted across 6,000 parents by the University of Oxford found that last winter’s lockdown affected parents even more badly than the spring lockdown, with many reporting high levels of stress, anxiety and depression.