Commenting on Childhood in the Time of Covid, a report published today by Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England, Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: 

“The Children’s Commissioner’s report highlights the multiple ways the pandemic has impacted on young people’s lives.

“Coronavirus and the national lockdown have entrenched inequalities children and young people face on a daily level – both at school and at home. Children living in vulnerable or dangerous domestic situations, as well as those trapped in poverty, are experiencing significant worsening of their mental health and wellbeing and face more barriers in accessing education.

“This academic year cannot be education as normal. Schools and colleges will need to be at the heart of ensuring that children and young people get the pastoral care and positive learning experiences.  The Government needs to get and keep the conditions in place to make sure schools can be safe enough for children, families and staff – and this means much more testing, more teachers and smaller classes.  

“We agree with the Children's Commissioner that a greater focus on pastoral care and support for families needs to happen right now, including through accelerating the implementation of the Government Green Paper. We agree every child that needs it must be able to access counselling via their school.  Schools must be supported to deliver a slimmed down curriculum involving more time for outdoor activities, art and creative work as this will boost engagement with learning and positive progress at school.

“Government plans for education must include ensuring that no child is left behind because of poverty. It is not right that children from low income backgrounds struggle to access the basics they need to learn. Thousands of children arrive at school hungry, or without a comfortable, fitting uniform. Many do not have access to the internet at home, or a digital device to help them keep up with their peers at school. The NEU believes that free school meals must be provided for every young person with a parent eligible for Universal Credit and through every school holiday. Every disadvantaged young person without a device to access the internet needs to receive one to combat the digital divide.”