Kate Green hits out at Government 'failings' to support the most vulnerable children

The Government has “failed” to support the most vulnerable children in its education recovery plans to ensure pupils are not left severely disadvantaged in the wake of coronavirus, the Shadow Education Secretary has warned.

Some two million children will leave school over the next four years without having had any education recovery support at all, analysis suggests.

In an exclusive interview with The Yorkshire Post, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green, a Greater Manchester MP for Stretford and Urmston, said the Government had treated young people as “an afterthought” over the past 18 months.

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Special report: Widening education gap
In an exclusive interview with The Yorkshire Post, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green, a Greater Manchester MP for Stretford and Urmston, said the Government had treated young people as “an afterthought” over the past 18 months. Photo credit: stock.adobe.com

Ms Green also warned that the Government’s levelling up agenda is “nothing more than rhetoric” due to an alleged lack of focus and planning given to education and the economic recovery.

She said: “I would give the Department of Education a big fat fail for how they have handled education over the last 16 months.

“Young people have been an afterthought in everything the Government has done during the pandemic.

“And levelling up is nothing more than rhetoric when you look at the woeful attention that has been given to education.”

Kate Green, Labour's Shadow Education Secretary has warned that the Government’s levelling up agenda is “nothing more than rhetoric” due to an alleged lack of focus and planning given to education and the economic recovery. Photo credit: Getty Images

New analysis for The Yorkshire Post from Labour shows some 193,968 children in Yorkshire and Humber will leave school over the next four years without having had any education recovery support.

This is formulated from the Government’s contract for the National Tutoring Programme, which sets the target for 11 per cent of the overall tutoring and mentoring provision to be delivered in Yorkshire and the Humber.

Ms Green warned that less opportunities are being created for youngsters in Yorkshire, and said an urgent review is needed to ensure the most vulnerable children do not slip through the net by the “faulty” way in which the Government’s funding is used.

She claimed that due to “stealth cuts” to budgets, schools nationwide stand to lose up to £90m as a result of the pupil premium change, as pupil premium cash will now not factor for those students who became eligible for free school meals between October and January.

Kate Green has warned that less opportunities are being created for youngsters in Yorkshire, and said an urgent review is needed to ensure the most vulnerable children do not slip through the net by the “faulty” way in which the Government’s funding is used. Photo credit: PA

She said: “We know that pupils in some parts of the country, including Yorkshire and the Humber and the North-West, have been disadvantaged.

“We have seen a fall in opportunities for young people, in Yorkshire and the Humber and the North-East and North-West. These are all things in our recovery plan which we sought to address.”

She added there was a particular concern going into the summer over school meals as Labour predicted the Government’s free school meals policy only provides 16 of a total of 30 weekdays during the six-week summer break, leaving children without food support for 14 days.

Ms Green said: “We are going into this school holiday with a programme that will actually only fund school meals for half the days in the school holidays. Children don’t go on half rations just because it’s the holidays.

Labour's Shadow Secretary Kate Green said due to a number of Department of Education “fiascos” over the past 18 months including the exams chaos of last summer when an algorithm “cheated children of results”, a government u-turn on free school meals and “last minute”planning, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is “not fit” to remain in post. Photo credit: Getty Images

“We have said there needs to be free meals for all eligible children during the holidays and the best way to make sure children get them is actually giving the parents the cash so they can go and buy the good healthy food they want for their children.”

Ms Green said due to a number of Department of Education “fiascos” over the past 16 months including the exams chaos of last summer when an algorithm “cheated children of results”, a government u-turn on free school meals and “last minute”planning, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is “not fit” to remain in post.

She said: “Gavin Williamson has let down children and young people - he has let down parents and families.

“He has shown again and again that he is not up to the job and when it is something as important as our children and young people - their childhood and their futures - I just think he is the wrong person doing the job and we must have someone who will really be able to deliver for them.”

She added: “Children and young people should be a priority - that is our obligation to them as adults, it’s also important for our country’s future success and prosperity because we can’t afford to waste the potential of any child or young person as we are building our economy again.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We have committed to an ambitious, and long-term education recovery plan, including an investment to date of over £3bn and a significant expansion of our tutoring programme, to support children and young people to make up for learning lost during the pandemic.

“The figures quoted for pupils not accessing catch-up support is based on one element of our recovery programmes, the National Tutoring Programme and not the full £3bn of funding announced since June 2020.

"The figure does not take into account access to programmes such as the catch up premium, the recovery premium and summer schools, all of which schools can use flexibly to target those most in need of support.”

A special Yorkshire Post report includes:

- Parents, headteachers, university students and leaders open up about the challenges to education over the past 18 months.

- Anne Longfield, the former Children's Commissioner for England, has called for a 10-year education plan, including the creation of a northern learning team, to be instigated to help combat a a “triple whammy” of disadvantage for thousands of children across the region and give pupils the “rightful” support to ensure they fulfil their full potential.

- Justine Greening - a former Education Secretary and the architect of the opportunity areas programme during her time in government - has made an impassioned plea to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to ensure more powers are given to local communities to create more opportunities for young people.

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