Commenting on Keir Starmer’s speech to Labour Party Conference, Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:  

“We welcome Keir Starmer's call for urgent efforts to close the education gap. To do this we need to end the debilitating poverty that so many families endure. Changes need to be made to the help and support families can access, the benefits system that penalises so many, and housing. 

“In 2018-19 some 4.2 million in the UK were trapped in poverty. Shockingly, this means nine children in every class of 30. By Christmas, 200,000 more children will be pushed below the poverty line. 

“Every day schools see the impact this has on their students. It is obvious that children and young people who are cold, hungry and worried, cannot concentrate or learn as effectively.   

“To begin to ensure that no child is left behind, the National Education Union is calling upon Government to expand eligibility for free school meals for every child on Universal Credit, for free school meals to be expanded year-round to end holiday hunger, and to ensure school uniforms are affordable. 

“700,000 young people live in homes without internet access. To make sure no young person is left behind, the Government must step up its scheme to provide free wi-fi access and laptops for disadvantaged children who don't have this access and give schools a dedicated tech budget to combat the digital divide. 

“All of this is readily achievable. The NEU looks forward to working with all political parties to ensure no child is left behind.”