Mick Whitley, MP for Birkenhead has accused the Conservatives of neglecting children’s futures after they announced a recovery package worth 10 times less than their education catch-up ‘tsar’, Sir Kevan Collins said was needed.
The Conservatives’ education ‘catch-up’ plan provides just £50 per child compared to the Netherlands, for example, where £2,500 has been allocated per child.
The government’s plan does not include anything for children’s wellbeing or social development, despite parents saying this is their top concern after the isolation of lockdown. Reinvestment in the tutoring programme continues but is currently reaching fewer than 1 in 50 school pupils.
Labour’s new Children’s Recovery Plan claims to harness children’s excitement at being back in school with their friends by creating new opportunities for young people to play, learn and develop.
Labour’s plan, which reflects engagement with schools, parents, and children, would deliver:
• Breakfast clubs and new activities for every child: from breakfast clubs to sport, drama, book clubs and debating societies, a fully funded expanded range of extracurricular clubs and activities to boost time for children to play and socialise after months away from their friends.
• Quality mental health support in every school: give every child the support they need to transition back to school and manage personal challenges, with access to qualified in-school counselling staff alongside boosting wellbeing through extra activities;
• Small group tutoring for all who need it: make small group teaching available to all children who need it by reforming the Government’s tutoring programme to make sure no child falls behind because of pandemic disruption;
• Continued development for teachers: Teachers have had one of the toughest years of their careers – it is only by supporting them with training to stay on top of the latest knowledge and techniques that we can give every child a brilliant classroom experience;
• An Education Recovery Premium: support every child to reach their potential by investing in children who have faced the greatest disruption during the pandemic from early years to further education, and double the Pupil Premium for children in key transition years, delivering additional support for children who need it most;
• Ensure no child goes hungry: no child will go hungry with Labour, by extending free school meals over the holidays, including the summer break.
The Government has been warned that failing to help children to recover lost learning could cost the economy and taxpayer as much as £420 billion – almost 30 times the cost of Labour’s comprehensive £15bn plan.
Children across Britain have had more time out of school than anywhere else in Europe which, combined the government’s delayed delivery of laptops and devices for remote learning, has seen the gap in learning between children on free school meals and their peers increase.
Mick Whitley said, “The Prime Minister claimed Education was his top priority. Yet when the man he put in charge of Education Recovery sent in his report the Prime Minister casually tossed it into the nearest Whitehall wastepaper bin.
“Sir Kevan Collins recommended that in the light of the damage that the Covid storm caused for our schools and colleges there was an urgent need for a catch-up injection of funds to the tune of fifteen billion pounds.
“In response the Secretary of State for Education on 2 June announced that there was a meagre one point four billion pounds on offer. This equates to fifty pounds per pupil.”
Mr Whitley continued, “Poor Sir Kevan was put in the position of a latter-day Oliver Twist pleading for “more sir”. Like Mr Bumble in the book this government rudely dismissed Sir Kevan’s request. His resignation is an indictment of this government and its record.
“The Conservatives have treated our children and young people as an afterthought throughout this pandemic and are now failing to deliver the investment needed to help their recovery.
“We must match the ambition children have for their own futures and put them at the heart of our national recovery. This is an investment that our children’s futures and the future of our country depends on.
“Spending this money today is not a drain on this country’s resources. It is an investment in the future. Labour’s plan can provide us with the teachers, doctors, nurses, care workers, builders and engineers who will rebuild this country in the years to come.”, Mr Whitley concluded.