Back in March 2020, when the Government took the hasty decision to shutter Britain’s schools in response to the emerging Covid threat, uncertainty reigned.
The world was panicking at the appearance of a new and deadly virus, with no treatments to speak of — let alone the effective vaccines we now have — and no firm idea how dangerous the threat was.
Ministers knew closing schools was unprecedented — but they could at least claim they didn’t know the toll it would inflict on our young.
Today, however, we know exactly the terrible consequences — and the misery, mental decline, physical illness and appalling abuse that have followed that mistake.
Last weekend, I watched with horror as Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi refused to rule out closing schools in the face of the new Omicron variant, saying only that the Government would ‘do everything in our power to protect education’.
He was echoed on Monday by Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who intoned that there are ‘no guarantees’ in this pandemic.
These words are so chilling. Now the fear is that the welfare of Britain’s children will be sacrificed again to protect the elderly — even if the latter are triple-jabbed.
‘Ministers knew closing schools was unprecedented — but they could at least claim they didn’t know the toll it would inflict on our young. Today, however, we know exactly the terrible consequences — and the misery, mental decline, physical illness and appalling abuse that have followed that mistake.’ Molly Kingsley
MOLLY KINGSLEY: Last weekend, I watched with horror as Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi refused to rule out closing schools in the face of the new Omicron variant, saying only that the Government would ‘do everything in our power to protect education’. (Zahawi photographed Dec 12
Since the start of the pandemic, only six Covid-infected children in Britain had been killed since November. However, millions upon millions of children have been affected by the anti-virus measures, including lockdowns, school closings, and other repercussions. They have found that their needs are being neglected in order to help their elders.
Their physical well-being has declined. Since 2006 when records were first kept, primary school children have been obese for the most time since 2019.
According to an Oxford University study, cancer detection in children fell by 17% within the first year of lockdown. The survival rate for cancer is greatly reduced by late diagnosis.
There is also the increasing incidence of mental illnesses in children.
Self-harm, eating disorders and other complex mental or behavioural disorders are all on the rise. The beginning of 2012 saw an unprecedented number of children suffering from potentially fatal eating disorders awaiting treatment in England.
One prominent GP has warned that children have suffered ‘unimaginable’ mental-health damage thanks to lockdowns.
‘It would be easier for me to become a supermodel than to get a child seen by CAMHS [the NHS’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service],’ said Dr Shaba Nabi earlier this year. ‘We are now living in a weird world where a primary school-age child can repeatedly self-harm, and that’s not considered enough for mental health support.’
While child abusers and paedophiles can attack children almost unchecked in their own homes and family houses, schools and social service have struggled to reach the most vulnerable kids during lockdown, they are able to do so behind closed doors.
Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel reported that child abuse increased by 27 percent between April 2019 and September 2020, compared to the prior year.
Only last weekend, it was revealed that 220 children died between April 2020 and March 2021 in cases thought to involve abuse and neglect — a jump of almost 7 per cent on the year before.
Boris Johnson, British Prime Minister, visits Stow Health Vaccination Center, London, Monday Dec. 13, 2021
The tragic story of Arthur Labinjo Hughes is well-known to all. Apart from being monitored by his teachers, the six-year old was put to terrible suffering by Thomas Hughes and Emma Tustin. His death at their hands should haunt us all — especially those who loudly champion lockdowns for children.
Foremost among these voices, of course, have been the hard-Left teaching unions, who appear to have done their best to keep teachers out of the classroom as much as possible for almost two years, whatever the consequences to the children in their members’ care.
This week, the NASUWT teaching union was at it again, demanding a staggered start to the new term, the cancellation or postponement of ‘non-essential’ activities and for staff and parent meetings to move online.
This is the same union that, in the depths of this year’s January lockdown, called for schools to avoid live video lessons on Zoom, claiming that it would be an invasion of privacy for children to see into teachers’ homes.
A lesson on Zoom and remote learning, of course, will only ever be a grossly inferior substitute for the classroom — as parents now know.
Last November, fully 80 per cent of schools told a government review that their students’ maths and literacy skills had been stunted after closures that year.
When primary school pupils returned in March this year, many were found to be nearly three months behind their expected educational ‘milestones’. Special needs students had fallen even more.
Poor and incomplete education over many months has led to an ever-widening education gap that is threatening the progress of the last 20 years. Many children won’t catch up and their future prospects will be bleak for the rest of their lives.
At the beginning of the pandemic my own children were six years old and three years old. Each child struggled to learn in his or her own way after being expelled from school.
Only this week, my eight-year-old wanted me to reassure her that she would be going back to school after Christmas — but who knows if she really will?
‘Home learning hurt my eyes,’ she told me. And that’s no surprise: less time outdoors and more spent staring at screens may have caused an epidemic of short-sightedness, according to a recent study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.
As a precaution, year eight students wear masks to protect themselves from the new coronavirus. They queue up in corridors before they go for an English lesson at Moor End Academy Huddersfield (northern England) on September 11, 2020.
While wearing glasses might seem not to be an issue, the condition can lead to irreversible blindness and impaired eyesight later on in life.
Surveying this roll call of devastation, I find it unconscionable that any minister could dream of closing schools again — especially when the new variant seems, on current evidence, less dangerous (if perhaps more infectious).
In South Africa, where Omicron was first identified, the government has emphasised that the spread has so far been linked to mild symptoms — and there seems to be no question of closing schools.
If, as Mr Zahawi proclaims, our Government really is determined to do ‘everything in its power’ to protect education, it should immediately adopt the Bill brought by Tory MP Robert Halfon, who is campaigning to make schools part of our essential infrastructure, meaning they can be closed only in the most dire circumstances.
If they were to be shut down immediately, it would be a grave moral offense.
Britain’s parents should not stand for it — and the Government should expect a political earthquake if they dare to attempt it again.
MOLLY KINGSLEY, a campaigner at UsForThem.co.uk