Labour has slammed the Tory government’s “shameful” failure in reducing educational inequalities and tackling rising child poverty levels in England.
Speaking at the annual conference of NASUWT, the Teachers’ Union, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green MP said every child deserves to live in a society that allows them to “make the most of their learning and fulfil their potential”.
She told delegates that Coronavirus had exposed “gross inequalities” in educational attainment between rich and poorer young people, but that these “were already holding back the life chances of so many children” even before the pandemic hit.
“The pandemic did not create, but exacerbated those injustices,” she said.
“The children who’ve been struggling to learn remotely because of the Government’s failure to ensure they had all the digital resources they needed to do so – were the very same children who were already struggling to find a quiet space at home where they could do their homework.
“The children who were so badly let down by the shameful food parcels we saw on social media earlier this year – were the same children who have been arriving at the school gate hungry because a decade of stagnant real wages and cuts to social security had left their parents struggling.
“The children who have missed out on the opportunity that being at school could give them to learn a new sport or play a musical instrument or enjoy creating a piece of art – were the children whose families couldn’t ever afford to have the equipment at home that they’d need to do so.”
Turning to the issue of child poverty, Kate Green MP highlightied how in the last ten years “the number of children growing up in poverty increased by almost 700,000”. This is expected to continue rising without urgent action.
She continued: “It’s bad for our country – poverty wastes potential and harms our country’s success and prosperity.
“More important still, it hurts children, not just in the future, but as they grow up. It harms their health. It damages their sense of self-esteem and wellbeing.”
She also hit out at the SNP in Scotland, stating that after fourteen years of an SNP government “one in four children in Scotland are growing up in poverty”.
She added: “In May the people of Scotland can vote to do things differently – by voting for a Scottish Labour Party that would reverse over a decade of SNP incompetence with an education comeback plan to support every child’s learning and wellbeing.”
The latest estimates suggest that across Britain there were just under three million children growing up in poverty in March 2020, up from 2.4 million in March 2015.
However, because these figures exclude housing costs most experts agree that the true number of children living below the breadline is likely to be far greater.