My view: 'Children have on average faced half a year out of the classroom'
Tulip Siddiq MP, Hampstead and Kilburn
- Credit: PA Images
We can all be thankful for the fact that children have been far less susceptible to Covid-19 than adults. However, school closures, social restrictions and barriers to accessing support have all meant that the pandemic has negatively impacted young people very substantially indeed.
By February this year, 850 million days of in-person school had been missed – that means children have on average faced half a year out of the classroom. The impact on their learning has been substantial, with evidence showing worrying declines in numeracy and literacy and a widening attainment gap. Their social and emotional development has been stunted, and the mental health of young people (and their parents) has also declined. One in six children could now have a mental health disorder – up from one in nine in 2017 – and many more have faced isolation, distress and even greater threats at home.
Recovering from a year of lost learning and development was always going to be a mammoth challenge requiring a bold plan and substantial funding. I was genuinely hopefully when Sir Kevan Collins – an expert educationalist – was brought in as the government’s education recovery adviser. Sir Kevan resigned last week when the government came forward with just a tenth of the funding that he established was necessary to ensure that children could recover.
For a government that claims to prioritise education, this is an astonishing betrayal of the next generation. Though, I should hardly have been surprised having witnessed a decade of rising child poverty, falling school budgets, children’s closures and soaring class sizes under the Conservatives. And not to mention the recent stealth cut to pupil premium that will deprive schools in Hampstead and Kilburn of essential funding and leave disadvantaged children without the support they need.
As Labour’s Shadow Children and Early Years minister, I have been advocating for a substantial £15 billion Children’s Recovery Plan – along the lines that Kevan Collins suggested – and proper support for early education which has been neglected by the Conservatives. We urgently need the government to realise the scale of the challenge our children face and support them properly.