Mercy Muroki: Never again should the UK ever accept the shutting of schools

Mercy Muroki
Mercy Muroki

'Between April and June this year, nearly 200,000 children were referred to children’s mental health services'

Published

Figures released by the Royal College of Psychiatrists show that the number of children being referred to mental health services is double what it was before the pandemic.

Between April and June this year, nearly 200,000 children were referred to children’s mental health services compared to around 100,000 in the same period in 2019.

The College’s Dr Elaine Lockhart, whose brief is children’s mental health, says this about the figures: “The pandemic has had a devastating effect on the nation’s mental health, but its becoming increasingly clear that children and young people are suffering terribly…”

And they undeniably are. How could anyone – young or old - not suffer after being forced to shut their entire life down for 18 months, whilst being deprived of education and social interaction…

In fact, in a big survey of children recently, 1 in 5 said they were unhappy with their mental health – girls and older, poorer children were the least happiest…

And the situation for those who seek support is dire.

1 in 5 children wait longer than 3 months to be seen by mental health specialists; the average wait is more than two months…

I know many might dismiss the figures on children’s mental health as proof that young people are too ‘soft’, that this is just a snowflake generation which can’t deal with a bit of adversity, that banging on about mental health actually encourages children to think they have mental health…

Maybe there is SOME truth to that… But we would brush this problem under the carpet at our peril. These young people are literally the future, after all…

I don’t know how the government can look at these figures – see what is happening to children, and ever countenance lockdown again…

Asked in an interview three weeks ago whether school closures were ever a possibility again, ex Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said that the government was doing its best, quote, "to avoid" shutting schools again…

That’s not good enough.

The Children’s Commissioner for England has warned the NEW Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, not to close schools in the future. The fact this has to be said, as if it isn’t blindingly obvious the harms far outweigh the benefits is deeply troubling…

And as far as I can see, the new Education Secretary has not been resolute in saying that school closures will never be countenanced by this government again because of Covid-19…

In the very worst case Covid scenario, I could maybe be convinced that some tightening up of Covid measures is needed. But never again should this country ever accept the shutting down of schools.