Failing to make up the education time lost as a result of the pandemic will cause social unrest and unprecedented youth violence, a former schools watchdog has warned.
Cautioning over the “profound” consequences for society, Sir Michael Wilshaw stressed the need for a large-scale recovery plan for pupils, particularly those from poor backgrounds.
The former Ofsted chief made the call as he lambasted the government over its handling of the crisis facing schools, closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, branding much of it “inept”.
After the Tory administration ditched its previous reopening target, drawing widespread criticism, Boris Johnson has said it is his intention that children of all ages in England should be able to return to school on a five-days-a-week basis in September.
The prime minister has also unveiled a £1bn plan to help youngsters catch up with their learning after spending months at home during the coronavirus lockdown.
This includes £350m to fund tutoring for the most disadvantaged pupils in schools.
However, speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme, Sir Michael said more than two million children are getting less than one hour’s work a day and their online learning programmes were “nowhere near adequate”.
He said: “The consequences for youngsters, particularly those from poor backgrounds, the consequences for our society and for our education system is going to be profound, and we need to recognise that.
“Everyone involved in education needs to recognise that and put in large-scale recovery and remedial programmes to make sure that the great gains that we’ve made over the last few years are not lost.
“If that doesn’t happen then we will go backwards. And there will be all sorts of problems in terms of social unrest, violence amongst young people that we’ve not seen before.”
Sir Michael was also deeply critical of the leadership at the Department for Education in dealing with the issue.
He said: “I don’t think it’s been led particularly well. I think much of it has been inept and that must stop. Headteachers must have confidence in the leadership of the department.”
“It’s a bit like a school. Schools succeed or fail on the basis of whether it’s got strong leadership. The same for the Department for Education.”