Free School Meals: Summer Holidays

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:56 pm on 16th June 2020.

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Photo of Rebecca Long-Bailey Rebecca Long-Bailey Shadow Secretary of State for Education 3:56 pm, 16th June 2020

I thank the hon. Member for his comment, but I think he must have been asleep when I outlined the scale of child poverty, particularly the point I made about many children living in working households. A job might be a job, but it is not good enough if that job does not provide enough for people to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. That is what many families are going through across the country at the moment, so let us up our game on this.

Not only is it simply wrong for children to be going to bed hungry, but it is likely to heighten the already substantial gap in attainment between the poorest and their peers. “Newsnight” reported last week that the poorest children usually end up five weeks behind where they were at the end of term because of the usual six-week summer break. With potentially six months away from school, I dread to think what the impact of this period will be on the education of the most disadvantaged children this year, without urgent help.

The Government are said to be planning a big catch-up programme for the summer holidays, which will of course be welcome and I wait to see the detail. However, I would be grateful if the Secretary of State agreed today to ensure that, as part of this, he will develop a national plan for education, where local authorities are funded to make a summer holiday local offer to children and young people; where schools are provided with additional resources, such as an enhanced pupil premium to help disadvantaged children; and where public buildings such as libraries and sports centres are used to expand the space available to schools to ensure safe social distancing.