Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “The Coronavirus pandemic has impacted pupils in very different ways, with some much more able to continue their learning than others. It is, of course, the pupils who we were most concerned about before the pandemic who have faced the greatest challenges during lockdown.
“The government could have ameliorated some of this by acting faster to ensure all children have equal access to technology and connectivity in order to continue learning remotely. Almost a full year into this crisis there should be no children left without access to a laptop and the internet.
“However, we should remember that the ‘disadvantage gap’ existed long before the pandemic. Lockdown has brought the gap into focus, and may well have widened it for some young people, but it did not create it. And unfortunately we can’t assume that a return to ‘normal’ will cause the gap to close. The fundamental issues creating disadvantage must be addressed by government once we emerge from this if we are to make a real difference in the future.
“Schools were already struggling to provide everything children need before this crisis, damaged as they and other social services have been by a decade of austerity. If schools are to play their part in healing the scars left by covid-19, be that educational, developmental or emotional, they and other key support services must be given the additional support, funding and resources they need to do so.”
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