Labour seizes post-covid education agenda with bold proposals for children to ‘play, learn and develop’
Today [Wednesday] Labour has published an extensive new education plan for the immediate post-Covid period, fuelled by widely held understanding that children make academic progress when they are happy and well-supported.
Labour’s Children’s Recovery Plan proposes a dynamic shift of focus across education settings in the wake of the pandemic, presenting a programme for all children to ‘play, learn and develop’ as the post-covid catch up continues.
At the heart of the new plans is a focus on ensuring children’s education results in happy, confident, ambitious young people, well prepared for the world of work, no matter where they come from or what type of school they go to.
Harnessing children’s excitement at being back in school, the Children’s Recovery Plan builds on the incredible work of teachers, school leaders, teaching assistants, support staff during the pandemic, by giving all schools the right resources to deliver a new range of activities and support – from sports to drama or music – to fuel post lockdown recovery whilst starting to address entrenched attainment gaps between the poorest and most privileged children.
The Party has been vocal in its criticism of the Government’s failings on education, both before and during the pandemic, calling out the Education Secretary on his failures from feeding children in the holidays to creating an exams fiasco last summer.
This paper reflects the depth of Labour’s relationships and work with schools, parents and children.
Labour’s plan would deliver:
- Breakfast clubs and new activities for every child: from breakfast clubs to sport, drama, book clubs and debating societies, a fully funded expanded range of extracurricular clubs and activities to boost time for children to play and socialise after months away from their friends.
- Quality mental health support in every school: give every child the support they need to transition back to school and manage personal challenges, with access to qualified in-school counselling staff alongside boosting wellbeing through extra activities;
- Small group tutoring for all who need it, not just 1%: make small group teaching available to all children who need it not just 1%, by reforming the Government’s failing tutoring programme to make sure no child falls behind because of pandemic disruption;
- Continued development for teachers: Teachers have had one of the toughest years of their careers – it is only by supporting them with training to stay on top of the latest knowledge and techniques that we can give every child a brilliant classroom experience;
- An Education Recovery Premium: support every child to reach their potential by investing in children who have faced the greatest disruption during the pandemic from early years to further education, and double the Pupil Premium for children in key transition years, delivering additional support for children who need it most;
- Ensure no child goes hungry: no child will go hungry with Labour, by extending free school meals over the holidays, including the summer break.
Labour’s announcement comes with a warning from Shadow Education Secretary, Kate Green MP, that the Conservatives are “showing no ambition for our children’s futures”, after reports that Chancellor Rishi Sunak will only spend £ £1.5bn on children’s recovery, 10 times less their ‘Catch-up Czar’ Kevan Collins has told Minister is needed.
A leaked report from, Sir Kevan Collins, has emphasised the importance of acting now, with British children having had more time out of school than anywhere else in Europe and 200,000 more children experiencing probable mental health conditions.
The Shadow Education Secretary said Labour’s £15bn plan – in line with Kevan Collin’s own proposals and informed by the Bright Future Taskforce of education experts – delivers the bold action that teachers, parents, children, education experts and employers have said is needed.
This one-off investment is dwarfed by the estimated cost to the economy and the taxpayer of not supporting children’s recovery, which the Education Policy Institute has said could be up to £420bn – almost 30 times more than the cost of Labour’s package.
The Government’s reported plan for extended lessons is unpopular among parents and education experts, who warn of limited additional benefits from the extra time, with no specific plans to boost wellbeing or social development, despite parents saying this is their top priority.
Pupils have missed an average of 95 days of in-person school which combined the Conservatives’ delayed delivery of laptops and devices for remote learning, has seen the gap in learning between children on free school meals and their peers increase. This gap had already stopped closing even before the pandemic as a decade of Conservative governments cut school budgets, oversaw soaring class sizes and delivered an increase in child poverty.
Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said
“Children are excited to be back in the classroom with their friends and hungry to learn. After such disruption, we owe it to them to match their energy and motivation, with the support and resources they need to thrive, not just whilst they catch-up, but for their school careers and beyond.
“Our plans deliver this, by funding activities to combine learning and play while investing in our teachers and staff, Labour will ensure that children not only recover, but are supported to push on. In contrast, the Conservatives are showing no ambition for children’s futures.
“Labour’s innovative plans, informed by parents, teachers and children, will deliver not just a world-class education for all based on play and social development, but fulfilled and confident young people.”
“We must match the ambition children have for their own futures and put them at the heart of our national recovery. This is an investment that our children’s futures and the future of our country depends on.”