Practical support for children and parents
Following England's move to alert level 5, on January 4 the Prime Minister announced that only vulnerable children and young people and children of critical workers should attend school or college. All other pupils and students will receive remote education.
Over recent weeks I have been campaigning hard for schools to stay open, because I believe that the cost to our children’s futures of missing out on school are real and growing. As a mother and former teacher, it is heart-breaking to see the damage that social isolation is doing to our children, on top of the long-term effects of gaps in education.
I also know how hard our teachers have been working to keep schools open over the last few months and weeks, and headteachers even continued to operate ‘test and trace’ over the Christmas holidays.
I am therefore disappointed that schools have had to close, although from the data available it is clear that our NHS is extremely stretched and the Prime Minister had little choice but to do everything possible to stem the spread of the new strain of coronavirus.
I know that school closures make life harder for parents and children across the Penistone and Stocksbridge constituency so I will be doing everything I can to urge the Government to re-open schools as soon as possible. I have written to Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health, to ask him to prioritise vaccinations for teachers and school staff - not because they are at more risk than other occupations, but because they are a critical workforce and it will help to get schools open more quickly.
Calling for an urgent assessment of the harms done to our children by social isolation.
Today in the House of Commons, I asked Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson to make an urgent assessment of the harms being done to children by social isolation as it’s important that we understand the full cost of school closures. I will be following up on his offer to meet me, to discuss what we need to do to offer the emotional, social and academic support that our children will need long-term to recover from the disruption of this year.
With the roll-out of the vaccine accelerating, and a clear commitment from the Government to the importance of education, I’m hopeful that our children will be back to school before too long.
Practical support available for schools and children
- If you are a critical worker or your child is vulnerable, your child is eligible for a school place throughout the current lockdown.
- The Government has allocated 1 million laptops for disadvantaged children, over 600 000 have been delivered. The laptops and tablets are being provided to make sure that all children can engage with online education – get in touch with your school if you think your child meets the criteria for allocation.
- Schools, trusts and local authorities can help disadvantaged children get online using free mobile data increases or 4G wireless routers provided by the Department for Education.
- Families entitled to free school meals will be offered food parcels or vouchers, funded by the Government.
- The BBC will be starting educational programming on Monday on BBC1 for Primary School and BBC2 for Secondary School students and have a range of online resources.