Voice of the Jewish News: The long road back starts at our schools
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Voice of the Jewish News: The long road back starts at our schools

This week's editorial reflects on the pandemic's toll on the community's education

Jewish News
Pupils at Hertsmere Jewish Primary School in Radlett were welcomed back with a colourful balloon arch as students returned to the classroom for the first time in two months. Pictured are Year 1 students Ella Starkowitz, Zack Wolfisz, Sophie Hall and Ethan Goodman with headteacher Rita Alak-Levi. Credit: Claire Jonas Photography
Pupils at Hertsmere Jewish Primary School in Radlett were welcomed back with a colourful balloon arch as students returned to the classroom for the first time in two months. Pictured are Year 1 students Ella Starkowitz, Zack Wolfisz, Sophie Hall and Ethan Goodman with headteacher Rita Alak-Levi. Credit: Claire Jonas Photography

Aside from the human cost – 892 lives lost in the UK Jewish community and 125,000 nationwide – the greatest tragedy of the last 12 months has been the impact on education. Schools that shut last March and have barely opened since. 

The academic damage visited on a generation will take many months, even years, to mend.

Jewish primary and secondary schools have worked logistical miracles under the most trying circumstances, negotiating bubble systems and remote learning provisions that have been subject to weekly – sometimes daily – disruption.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, who has faced criticism for his handling of schools and universities during the pandemic, earned house points from teachers and parents alike this week by suggesting longer school days, a five-term year and shorter summer holidays could be the way to get struggling students back into learning mode. These ideas merit swift and serious consideration.

The palpable relief of parents, who have endured weeks of home schooling, was underlined in red ink by one school reporting an unprecedented 100 percent attendance (“This never, ever happens!” noted the headteacher). 

Another happy headteacher, Hertsmere Jewish Primary School’s
Rita Alak-Levi, said: “Not only did pupils have happy smiling faces, so did their parents.”

You don’t need to be a relieved parent to sense that the reopening of our schools signals a decisive corner being turned on the long and winding road back to stability and – one day soon we hope – post-pandemic normality.

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