Our children deserve better - ministers must learn from their mistakes

Swiss Cottage School

Tulip Siddiq spoke to 75 head teachers of special needs schools including Swiss Cottage - Credit: Archant

This lockdown has been incredibly tough for teachers, who are having to balance delivering remote learning with supporting those vulnerable and key worker children who are still in school. Not to mention all the work they are doing to ensure children continue to get welfare and other support.

All school staff are working tirelessly to deliver for their children in the most difficult of circumstances, but none more so than those in special schools. These schools have effectively been asked to remain open for all their pupils, and many have as much as 80% of their children in at a time when many staff are sick or self-isolating.

MP for Hampstead and Kilburn Tulip Siddiq

Tulip Siddiq says the government has let children down during Lockdown - Credit: PA/ Lauren Hurley

Last week, I had the privilege of speaking to more than 75 head teachers from special schools and alternative provision, including Swiss Cottage special school and Manor School in Brent. It was moving to hear about some of the profound challenges that children with special educational needs and disabilities are facing in lockdown.

Schools in Hampstead and Kilburn and all around the country are doing their best to support these children, but the truth is that they have been put in an impossible position – asked to stay open but not given the resources to do so effectively. And it is children who are paying the price in their education, mental health and wider development.

It is staggering that nearly a year into the pandemic, many children who are being expected to learn remotely still do not have the digital equipment they need. The government has missed all its targets, which weren’t ambitious enough to begin with, and many children with SEND haven’t been given IT equipment appropriate to their needs. And, in this half term week, many children will be missing out on free school meals because the government failed to guarantee them over this holiday.

Our children deserve so much better. We have been calling on ministers to learn from their mistakes, prioritise the needs of children and get all school staff vaccinated.

  • Tulip Siddiq is MP for Hampstead and Kilburn.