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Covid-19: Effect of School Closures

Women and Equalities – in the House of Commons on 6th May 2020.

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Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Conservative, Forest of Dean

What assessment she has made of the effect of school closures in response to the covid-19 outbreak on the life chances of children from working-class backgrounds.

Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch The Exchequer Secretary

We are doing everything we can to ensure that no child, whatever their background, falls behind due to coronavirus. We have already committed more than £100 million to boost remote learning, and we are funding access to IT devices and software focused on the most disadvantaged. It is worth remembering that schools continue to receive pupil premium funding worth around £2.4 billion annually, and that should help to support disadvantaged children during this period.

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Conservative, Forest of Dean

I am grateful to the Minister for that answer, but there is anecdotal evidence that school closures bear down more heavily on those from already disadvantaged backgrounds. As the Government are able to reopen schools, can we look at any measure that is necessary to enable children from more challenged backgrounds to catch up, including, if necessary, weekend and summer schools? Even if it is not possible to have schools opened fully during those periods, can we look at what we can do to help?

Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch The Exchequer Secretary

May I reassure my right hon. Friend that this is something that we are looking very closely at? We are working with partner organisations, exploring targeted support options for disadvantaged people while schools remain closed and in the summer break, and considering how best to support pupils to rapidly catch up when schools reopen. He should know that we have already taken prompt wide-ranging action to help schools and parents support all young people, publishing a list of online education resources for parents, launching a new online academy, and working with the BBC to create a package of TV and online materials to support learning at home.