Remote Education and Free School Meals

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:29 pm on 18th January 2021.

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Photo of Holly Mumby-Croft Holly Mumby-Croft Conservative, Scunthorpe 8:29 pm, 18th January 2021

This is an important subject, and I am pleased to be able to speak in this debate. We can be proud of the support that the Government have put in place for those who are most vulnerable to the dangers of the coronavirus, but there is no hiding from the fact that this has been, and continues to be, an incredibly difficult time for many in our communities. We have all had to adapt to the changes that the pandemic has forced upon us. Of all those conversations, one of the most important is about how we brace our young people, both in the here and now and against the difficulties they may face after we defeat the virus.

Colleagues are right to make reference to the package that the Government have put in place. I voted for the previous Opposition motion on free school meals, and I would do it again, but the Government have now put in place increased support. The ambitious covid winter grant scheme introduced by the Government will fund holiday free school meals through local authorities for those children that need them, and the holiday activities and food programme will follow. Those are meaningful, real-life packages of support that local authorities and schools are using right now to help children. They are tailored to those who need them most. I was pleased to work alongside my hon. Friend Andrew Percy and local council leader Rob Waltham on this in our area.

Talking about this is important, and what hon. and right hon. Members say in this Chamber is important, but what matters most is what we do to improve the life chances of our young people. I am proud to work alongside those on the ground who get on with it and put that Government support in place. This issue should never be about headlines or the opportunity for political advantage. On that note, I want to thank and acknowledge those people at the frontline on free school meals and the provision of remote learning devices. Throughout this pandemic, our schools, our teachers and all our school staff have had to take on additional roles. They are now social workers, councillors and, with remote learning in place, IT consultants too. I hope that the Government will recognise those contributions in future pay reviews.

With our schools working hard to catch up, I call on the Government to continue their support for the catch-up premium and the national tutoring programme—important policies that can make a meaningful difference to children in areas such as Scunthorpe. Moving forward, our priority must be to ensure that the measures in place meet the needs of those supported, and I will carry on working with my local authority and the schools in my area to make sure that we do our best—