Commenting on a new analysis published today by the National Foundation for Educational Research which looks at the differences in the cost of learning during the Covid-19 pandemic, Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:

"Since March schools have been in uncharted territory and they have been doing all they can to support pupils. Heads and teachers are all too aware of the disparity in home learning and the lack of engagement that remote learning can foster. For some families this is exacerbated by the impact of poverty and unsuitable home environments such as lack of space and IT equipment. The Government's effort to meet IT need has been sluggish and inconsistent.

"The NEU has spoken up for disadvantaged children throughout this crisis.  According to IPPR, there will be 200,000 more children living in poverty by Christmas, and the gap between disadvantage children and their peers was prevalent before Covid-19. It is now time for the Government to ensure no child is left behind by ending the scourge of child poverty."

"We agree that fining parents in September for non-attendance is not a solution. As the report highlights, Black children are more likely to live within a household with an at-risk adult. In many cases fining parents will only alienate the very pupils that schools want to reach out to the most. Blanket policies of full attendance are not fair or helpful and are the wrong message to send out from Government to parents who are trying to act responsibly during a pandemic.

"The Department for Education has displayed a curious silence around how schools are supposed to be able to provide enough targeted support, and address the amount of learning time missed. We think Government could be doing much more to make targeted support possible, which requires small class sizes and groups, additional teachers and a flexible curriculum. All of this is essential as many students will need much more individual attention on their return.

"Keeping a broad and balanced curriculum will be essential from September. It is proven to be the case that a wide range of experiences at school is key to motivating and engaging disadvantaged pupils. We must build back better for the sake of all young people."

ENDS

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