BRIDGET PHILLIPSON: 'Children are not a high priority for this government'

Our children and young people have had a difficult and stressful year.

Thursday, 24th June 2021, 12:00 am
More must be done to help children who are left behind.
More must be done to help children who are left behind.

They have seen not merely an interruption to their lives, but a disruption to their education and their development which risks setting back a generation. But children are not a high priority for this government.

It has emerged that the Chancellor rejected the Prime Minister’s expert education advisor, Sir Kevan Collins’, recommendations for a comprehensive package of support for children’s education. Sir Kevan resigned because the government cut the scale of his proposed plan by ninety percent.

I’ve spoken with school leaders in our area and I know just how hard school staff have had to work to support their pupils through an extremely difficult year. In our community, children have missed an estimated 103 days of in-person school - over half of a normal year - but the Tories’ miserly ‘catch up’ plan provides only 91p of funding per child for every day of in-person school that they missed.

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Labour grasps the scale of the problem and the need to rise to the challenge that a generation of children are facing and launched our own Children’s Recovery Plan.

Labour’s plan would deliver proper investment to ensure all schools can deliver a new range of activities and support – from breakfast clubs and activities for every child, to small group tutoring for every child who needs it and quality mental health support in school.

The Tories’ failure to invest in our children’s future is a false economy on a national scale. Earlier this year, the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies estimated that pupils who have lost six months of normal schooling could lose approximately £40,000 in income over their lifetime. That adds up to as much as £350 billion.

Money was no object when it came to the friends and donors of the Conservative party, but it was a big no from the Chancellor for children who urgently need support to catch up after the biggest disruption to their education in a generation.

No child should be left behind as a result of the pandemic, and my focus will always be on giving children in our community the best possible future. Children can't vote, but all politicians have a duty to them nonetheless. The Government still has a chance to put this right.