The West Wolds Labour Party column with Mike Cooper and Gordon McAlpine: Pupils need recovery support to avoid becoming a ‘Covid generation’

Amidst all that has happened this summer, there is a danger of losing our focus on the long-term impact of Covid-related problems on this generation of children and young adults in our local schools and colleges.

Tuesday, 7th September 2021, 12:41 pm
Children should not lose out on their education because of Covid-19.
Children should not lose out on their education because of Covid-19.

Amidst all that has happened this summer, there is a danger of losing our focus on the long-term impact of Covid-related problems on this generation of children and young adults in our local schools and colleges.

On one day towards the end of last term, on July 14, East Riding of Yorkshire Council reported that 2,317 of its school pupils were self-isolating. 15 schools had closed whole bubbles and two schools had closed altogether.

Parents, guardians, teachers and support staff are well aware of the impact sustained disruptions have had on children and young people over the last 18 months. But at the start of a new academic year, what will we demand collectively of our politicians to ensure that all pupils, regardless of circumstance, are not at risk of losing out again?

Addressing this very question, the education recovery commissioner for England, Sir Kevan Collins, put forward a £15 billion Covid catch-up plan to the Conservative Government in June of this year.

Unfortunately, the Government largely ignored his recommendations and responded by pledging just £1.4 billion of spending, to be spread over the next three years, demonstrating a total failure to support schools, families and young people.

Sir Kevan promptly resigned, saying: “I do not believe it is credible that a successful recovery can be achieved with a programme of support of this size.”

At about the same time, the Labour Party published its own fully costed Children’s Recovery Plan.

At a cost of £14.7 billion over the next two years, it is much closer to the £15 billion called for by the catch-up commissioner.

It is also far wider in its scope than the government’s response.

It recognises that after spending months away from friends and experiencing the anxieties of Covid, many children and young people need urgent support for their social and emotional development, as well as help to catch up academically.

The Labour plan therefore includes the funding of programmes to stimulate social interaction such as sport, drama, book clubs and other vitally important extra-curricular activities.

Attending to children and young people’s well-being supports their educational attainment, but the Labour plan also pledges smaller group tutoring for all, further training for our undervalued teachers and extra funding for the ‘left behind’ pupils and students who suffered most from the disruption of Covid.

This includes those who would have gone hungry had the government not been forced into a U-turn by the Marcus Rashford campaign.

As Kate Green, Labour’s Shadow Education Minister, says in the report: “Addressing the impact of the pandemic on this generation of young people is essential, for their life chances, their wellbeing, and for our wider society and economy.

“It must be at the heart of a national recovery if we are to avoid the creation of a ‘Covid generation’.”

This is a challenge that must be met if we are to secure all our young people’s educational futures and life chances.