Esther McVey has called for Government to set out in what circumstances schools could be closed again - as she warned against such a move.
The Tatton MP said schools must re-open after the Christmas holidays to avoid further damage to both the education and mental health of children and young people.
Speaking in Parliament she called for answers after Government said “there were no guarantees” when it came to the new Omicron variant.
Ms McVey said: “Last week’s Ofsted report was damning about the impact lockdown has had on our nation’s children and the immense harm students have suffered, with the Children’s Commissioner saying that schools should not close again. However, it seems that the Government has left the door open to school closures after the Christmas recess. What specific conditions would need to be met for schools not to open in the new year?”
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the booster programmes was vital in tackling the new variant and keeping the public safe.
He added: “What I would say to her is that with the risk we see from Omicron at this point in time—the rise in infections, the increased risk of hospitalisation and the information we have on vaccines—we think we have taken the appropriate response. It is a balanced and measured response. It is designed to protect so much of what we love in our country, especially the interests of our children.”
The plea from Ms McVey follows the landmark report last week by Ofsted which found nearly all children fell behind in development as a result of the pandemic. Schools being closed led to widespread loneliness and boredom, and some children losing the ability to hold cutlery, remember how to play with friends or talk. In the most extreme cases vulnerable children were subject to abuse.
Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman said a further lockdown would be crippling for children.
Ms McVey added: “There were 33 million days lost due to schools being shut. The effect the lockdown and the pandemic has had on children is incredible, their development and progress has been hampered, with some even regressing in language and social skills. Children with SEND had additional barriers to overcome and many were unable to access the support they rely on; the list goes on of all the negative impacts. We must keep schools open come what may.”