Covid inquiry: Schools shut while pubs open a mistake – Longfield

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The inquiry heard that in some countries, children were at the forefront of national concerns. The prime ministers in Norway and New Zealand held TV briefings for children at the start of the pandemic to reassure them and to thank them for all they were doing.

“We didn’t have such an event in the UK, despite my requests to No 10 and the prime minister,” Ms Longfield said.

While policies on school closures and exam cancellations were broadly similar across the four UK nations, the former children’s commissioner said there were other notable differences.

In England, children were not exempt from the “rule of six” arrangements, which prohibited social gatherings of more than six people – unlike their peers in Scotland and Wales.

This meant at times children in England were unable to play with friends or spend time with grandparents while those in Scotland and Wales could.

She said children should be put at the heart of planning for future emergencies, with schools “the last to close and the first to reopen”.

Ms Longfield is calling for a more ambitious recovery plan and the appointment of a minister for children to tackle the long-term impact of lockdown and school closures.

Research shows the number of children seeking NHS help for mental health problems has risen since the pandemic, persistent absence in schools is struggling to get back to pre-pandemic levels and the attainment gap is widening.

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