It was a “terrible mistake” to open pubs while keeping schools shut during the pandemic, an inquiry has heard.
Anne Longfield, who was the children’s commissioner for England during Covid, was giving evidence to the second round of public hearings.
Politicians should ensure children’s needs are never overlooked again in future emergencies, she said.
She added schools should be “the last [services] to close and the first to reopen” – unlike what happened during Covid.
The most vulnerable children will be struggling with the impact of the pandemic for the next 10 or 20 years, she said.
In March 2020, the UK’s 24,000 schools were closed for most children and examinations cancelled.
In the months that followed, schools were reopened and closed multiple times for most children.
The then-Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said at the time he wanted nothing more than to “get schools back to normal”.
Ms Longfield told the inquiry the government made decisions which on occasion “lacked coherence” and was “indifferent” to the impact of policy decisions in children.
While the initial school closures were necessary, she says the decision to keep schools closed for most children from March 2020 to September 2020, while at the same time increasing social interaction in other parts of society, was a “terrible mistake”.
“We had ‘Eat Out to Help Out‘ instead of schools opening,” she said.