Commissioner calls for steps to minimise impact of school closures on children

8 January 2021

In response to Welsh Government’s announcement about ongoing school closures, Professor Sally Holland, Children’s Commissioner for Wales, said:

The news that school and college buildings won’t be reopening to the majority for a few more weeks will have a significant impact on our children and their families. I urge people of all ages to play their part by following Tier 4 guidelines so that schools and colleges can reopen again as soon as possible.

There are now four immediate priorities for supporting children and young people:

  • Welsh Government must, with urgency, produce minimum expectations of online delivery, which is age appropriate, for all learners. This need not mean full days at the screen – this is unlikely to be positive for the health of children or teachers – but children and parents should know what to expect from their school. It is clear that very many schools have worked hard to develop their offer over the last few months, and young people have told me that it is much improved, but there cannot be a post-code lottery when it comes to our children’s education.
  • Local authorities, with the support of Welsh Government, must ensure access to digital devices for all learners who require them. I’ll be seeking views from all head teachers and college principals across Wales to identify the level of need and what the obstacles are, to highlight to local authorities and Welsh Government. We cannot ensure children’s continued access to education without this.
  • There is absolutely no doubt that children have suffered during this pandemic and we must all make sure that those who need mental health support can access it without delay. I’ve published information on my website about the superb support that organisations are currently offering.
  • We must find a way of re-opening school and college buildings as soon as it’s safe to do so, whether that’s full capacity or even part-time attendance. School and college staff should be prioritised for vaccination.

No-one wants to be in this situation and children and their families will be saddened and disappointed by the continued closure of schools and colleges for the majority of pupils. The focus currently has to be on doing all we can to minimise the inevitable impact on children, whilst protecting public health.