In the long term, our children are now at risk of becoming the worst-hit victims of Covid

Last Sunday, the prime minister declared it was safe for schools to reopen as planned across much of England. On Monday evening, after many children had returned to school for a single day, he announced that schools would be closing for most children for at least seven weeks.

Nothing material changed over the course of those 24 hours. There was no shift in data trends, no new scientific discovery, no fresh revelation. It was a decision that could and should have been made before Christmas. Instead, the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, threatened legal action against schools that followed local authority advice to close a few days early. Secondary schools were instructed to prepare to organise and oversee regular testing of all pupils over the break. In the days before this screeching U-turn, headteachers were put in an impossible position: should they continue to prepare for schools to return or should they start to make plans for the closure they knew was coming, even if Williamson refused to admit it?

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