Prompt and proper investment in young people is vital for our future

Posted On 14 Aug 2021 at 12:35 am

Congratulations to all students in the city who received A level results on Tuesday. Well done to you and your teachers for pulling out all the stops and working creatively through the challenges of the pandemic.

Worryingly, the divide between private and state schools in achieving top A-level results has widened considerably this year, with a 50 per cent higher grade increase among private pupils than state, according to government data.

The Sutton Trust said that disparities in remote learning opportunities during the pandemic have hit those from the poorest backgrounds harder.

To our shame, there are now an estimated 4.3 million children and young people living in poverty in the UK, a massive 31 per cent of all UK children, and the pandemic is widening the gap between rich and poor even further.

So, what needs to be done to reduce this risk to our children’s future?

Cash-strapped state schools and councils must be given adequate funding. We need extra training and support for teachers, and to allow students to repeat their final year if it was badly affected by the pandemic.

The National Audit Office (NAO) published a report in March, analysing the Department for Education (DfE) response to the crisis.

It warned: “It is crucial the department now takes swift and effective action (to) ensure the catch-up learning programme is effective and reaches children disproportionately affected, such as those who are vulnerable and disadvantaged.”

But when government revealed its plan, the £1.4 billion allocated was a fraction of the £15 billion recommended by Sir Kevan Collins, the education recovery commissioner appointed by Downing Street.

He later resigned, warning it was not “credible that a successful recovery can be achieved with a programme of support of this size”.

It’s clear that children and young people are going to need more support than is currently available.

Brighton and Hove Labour councillors are committed to campaigning for action on closing the attainment gap.

But we urgently need government recognition of how vital it is to invest properly and quickly in the young people who are the future of our city and our country.

Councillor John Allcock is the joint leader of the Labour opposition on Brighton and Hove City Council.

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