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Covid-19: Vulnerable Children

Education – in the House of Commons on 5th May 2020.

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Photo of Henry Smith Henry Smith Conservative, Crawley

What steps his Department is taking to ensure that vulnerable children are identified and supported during the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Gavin Williamson Gavin Williamson The Secretary of State for Education

Schools remain open to children in care, and local authority virtual school heads are actively tailoring their expert offer of advice and support to all children on what they are learning in schools. For those not attending, we have made it clear to local authorities and schools that they should be doing everything they can to maintain contact with and support for children not attending school.

Photo of Henry Smith Henry Smith Conservative, Crawley

What specific support during the covid-19 pandemic is being provided for children in care and children with special educational needs, such as dyslexia?

Photo of Gavin Williamson Gavin Williamson The Secretary of State for Education

We have been working right across the sector to make it absolutely clear that we understand the need for very specific, tailor-made guidance for a lot of children in special educational needs settings. We have been working with special schools to be able to provide that. We have also been providing tailored advice, support and resources online for children with a whole spectrum and range of special educational needs, as well as on how we support families to give education at home.

Photo of Tulip Siddiq Tulip Siddiq Shadow Minister (Education)

Thank you, Mr Speaker. Last week, the Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, said that the Government’s latest reduction in legal protections for children in care without proper scrutiny or an opportunity to scrutinise was not justified, given that the staffing in social care is “holding up”. The Labour party agrees with the Children’s Commissioner for England. Does the Secretary of State also agree with the Children’s Commissioner for England?

Photo of Gavin Williamson Gavin Williamson The Secretary of State for Education

On the regulations we have laid, we worked very closely with the ADCS—the Association of Directors of Children’s Services—on how we make sure we do everything we can to maintain the very best support for all children when they are in care. It and the sector have specifically asked us to make sure that some flexibilities are made available to them. This is a temporary measure that we have taken in response to concerns that people have raised about making sure they are able to provide the best care for the most vulnerable children. It is certainly not something that is going to be continued once we are through this crisis.

Photo of Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Chair, Education Committee, Chair, Education Committee

First, will my right hon. Friend thank the teachers and support staff of Harlow, who have been doing everything possible to teach children of critical workers and vulnerable children over the past few weeks? Given that only 5% of vulnerable children are being educated in schools, nearly 50% of under-16s are potentially being exposed to online harms and possibly two thirds are not accessing online education, does my right hon. Friend agree that a catch-up premium, with tuition, mentoring and wellbeing, will be necessary for these vulnerable children as schools begin to reopen once again?

Photo of Gavin Williamson Gavin Williamson The Secretary of State for Education

I certainly will join my right hon. Friend in paying tribute to the teachers and all those who work in schools not only in Harlow but right throughout the country for the amazing work that they are currently undertaking.

We are working closely on how we ensure that every child in this country has the ability to catch up, and I was interested to hear my right hon. Friend’s ideas. We are looking into how we can take forward some of those concepts, including the enormous good will among the British public, to help to support children to make sure that they do not miss out as a result of this crisis. We need to make sure that that is not just an idea but actually becomes a reality.