Measures to support education recovery, House of Commons, 29 June 2021

It is vital that vulnerable children, who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, are the focus of this programme of work. In their role as leaders of local education systems, councils can bring together partners, join up local efforts to promote education recovery.


Key messages

  • Councils have been instrumental in supporting all schools throughout the pandemic, including working to support vulnerable pupils and interpreting guidance to help ensure learning has continued as safely and effectively as possible for all children and young people.
  • COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted the most disadvantaged children. A recent report from the National Audit Office (NAO) noted that children from different backgrounds had contrasting experiences of remote learning and as most vulnerable children did not attend school between late March 2020 and end of the summer term in 2020, this could have resulted in increased levels of hidden harm.
  • The Department for Education’s £1.4 billion education recovery fund announced on 2 June is welcome, but we are concerned that it does not go far enough. The Education Policy Institute (EPI) recommends that £13.5 billion is needed to tackle lost learning caused by the pandemic. While the Government’s focus on academic recovery is understandable, a broader approach is needed that includes measures to support children and young people’s socialisation, communication and mental health and well-being.
  • It is vital that vulnerable children, who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, are the focus of this programme of work. In their role as leaders of local education systems, councils can bring together partners, join up local efforts to promote education recovery.
  • We are concerned that there will be an increase in requests for support from children and young people with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) where the support set out in their plan has not been provided, particularly due to pressures on the health service. We are keen to work with the Department for Education (DfE), Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) and NHS England to ensure that the support needs of children with SEND can be met as soon as possible.
  • We anticipate a need for additional support for children, young people and their families over the coming months and possibly years, as a result of or exacerbated by COVID-19. To ensure families can get the support they need, we are calling for the £1.7 billion lost from the Early Intervention Grant since 2010 to be restored and the reinstatement of the £700 million removed from the public health grant since 2015.
  • It is crucial that mental health support is on an equitable footing as education when we look at recovery. Children will not engage in school if they have poor mental health, thus widening the learning gap further. Any proposals on lost learning need to address the emotional and social needs of young people, as well as covering academic subjects.
  • It is essential that the Government learns from what’s happened over the last 12 months, including looking into the shortage of academic mentors in disadvantaged areas and building on resources developed to tackle societal inequalities and better support children and young people’s recovery from the pandemic.

Schools

The Department for Education’s £1.4 billion education recovery fund announced on 2 June is welcome, but we are concerned that it does not go far enough. The Education Policy Institute (EPI) recommends that £13.5 billion is needed to tackle lost learning caused by the pandemic. EPI analysis of Government spending has also found that funding for pupils’ recovery for the whole of the next academic year amounts to slightly more than the funding that went towards the Eat out to Help Out scheme, which ran for one month.

While the Government’s focus on academic recovery is understandable, we think a broader approach is needed that includes measures to support children and young people’s socialisation, communication and mental health and well-being. It is also vital that vulnerable children, who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, are the focus of this programme of work. In their role as leaders of local education systems, councils can bring together partners, join up local efforts to promote education recovery.

Furthermore, extending the school term into the summer will clearly have resource implications for both schools and councils, for example, an extension to home-to-school transport. These will need to be funded by the DfE. We are also concerned that teachers have been working incredibly hard for the last twelve months and must be given time off over the summer to rest and recover.

SEND

We are concerned that as lockdown measures continue to ease there will be an increase in requests for support from children and young people with Education, Health and Care Plans where the support set out in their plan has not been provided, particularly due to pressures on the health service. We are keen to work with the DfE, Department for Health and Social Care and NHS England to ensure that the support needs of children with SEND can be met as soon as possible. The on-going review of the SEND system should also consider learning from the pandemic, for example, that some children and young people with SEND benefited from being away from the classroom and being taught at home.

Vulnerable children

We anticipate a need for additional support for children, young people and their families over the coming months and possibly years as a result of pressures introduced or exacerbated by the pandemic. This includes issues around financial hardship, mental health and wellbeing issues, domestic abuse and drug and alcohol misuse. Much of this will not be at the higher end of need – rather, it will require short term interventions to support people through a difficult period. 

However, many early interventions have been scaled back or withdrawn altogether as funding challenges and increasing need for urgent child protection services have diverted funding towards more intensive services. To ensure families can get the support they need, when they need it, and to prevent needs from escalating, we are calling for the £1.7 billion lost from the Early Intervention Grant since 2010 to be restored, and the reinstatement of the £700 million removed from the public health grant since 2015.

Schools are one of the main referrers into children’s social care, thanks to the unique relationships of teachers and support staff with their pupils and the ability to spot if something isn’t right. These relationships and opportunities for disclosures will be challenged if school staff continue to have additional expectations placed upon them in terms of infection control and education catch up.

Mental health

Councils are crucial to providing a strategic oversight role in co-ordinating different partners (mental health specialists but also youth groups and the voluntary sector) to support schools, children and young people, as well as using their expertise to facilitate conversations locally and bringing school nurses, educational psychologists and others together.

We welcomed the Wellbeing for Education Recovery funding, which built on the Education Return Funding. It continues to be well received in providing support to children and young people, and schools, by local authorities who know what is required in their local area. We have also welcomed the increased roll-out of Mental Health Support Teams in schools. Government needs to continue to invest in emotional wellbeing and mental health support for children and young people. This needs to include support in the wider community, as well as schools. We recognise that currently the majority of funding comes through the NHS so would wish to see a national expectation that each Integrated Care System prioritises children and young people’s emotional health and well-being.

The mental health and wellbeing of younger children (under-fives) is an increasing concern for families and those working with them. The Government should ensure that practical support is given to those working with children and investment in young children is prioritised, as well as support for parents. 
 

Contact

Iredia Oboh, Public Affairs and Communications Manager

iredia.oboh@local.gov.uk