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Public at odds with ministers over summer school openings

Polling for the New Statesman reveals a majority of voters believe schools should teach through the summer holidays.

By Patrick Maguire

More than half of voters believe that schools should open during the summer holidays to make up for teaching time lost during the coronavirus lockdown, despite ministers ruling it out.

Polling for the New Statesman by Redfield and Wilton Strategies reveals that while the public is broadly supportive of plans to keep schools closed for the time being, the majority disagrees with Gavin Williamson, the education secretary.

On 29 April, Williamson told MPs that could not give a date for the reopening of schools and said only that they would reopen in phases – but not during the summer holidays.

While 48 per cent of voters do not believe schools should resume teaching at all on 7 May, when lockdown measures are due for their next review, 52 per cent told Redfield and Wilton that teaching should take place over the summer holidays to make up for time lost during this academic year.

There are widespread concerns that the loss of teaching time due to lockdown will have a negative impact on social mobility. Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner, said last month that schools should consider teaching through the summer to prevent the attainment gap broadening.

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Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, has also raised concerns that lengthy closures are likely to result in increased inequality, as has Robert Halfon, the chair of the education select committee. He has warned of a “potential cascade of mounting social injustice that could last a decade”.

One in ten voters polled go as far as to say that schools should reopen fully on 7 May, with one in three – 33 per cent – backing a partial reopening. However, 41 per cent believe they should close as planned for the summer holidays, with teaching lost this year factored into the next academic term.

Redfield and Wilton Strategies polled a representative sample of 1,500 adults in Great Britain online on 30 April.