Remote Education and Free School Meals

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:12 pm on 18th January 2021.

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Photo of John Howell John Howell Conservative, Henley 9:12 pm, 18th January 2021

I join colleagues in paying tribute to the teachers involved in delivering remote learning. Let me also say how proud I am of those teachers who are still going to school to teach the children of key workers; they greatly deserve our praise, because it is important to provide the best education that we can for those children. We have heard from the Secretary of State how he is doing that, and I am impressed with what we have done: we have spent £400 million and ordered 1.3 million laptops and other devices for children.

There are, though, some problems with delivery. I am pleased that the BBC has come into this debate, although one thing that that disguises is the difficulty of getting good broadband. Even in my constituency, one need not go more than a couple of miles outside the town of Henley to find poor broadband.

I am proud of what parents are doing, but I wish they were all like one of my constituents, who makes sure that her daughter dresses in school uniform to do her remote learning. My constituent, who is a teacher herself, says that is important; it brings about a noticeable improvement in the child’s concentration while learning remotely.

I heard the Secretary of State set out time limits for individuals to follow in the delivery of remote learning, but we will need to keep an eye on that because, while some schools are sticking to those limits, others are going well beyond them and are providing whole days of teaching rather than the bits of days of teaching that we have heard about.

Finally, let me ask just one question, which I do not think that anyone has mentioned so far. Can the Minister tell me what is being done to help blind students to participate in remote learning? They have needs of their own and it is very difficult to see how, on the face of it, they are being allowed to participate in this learning.