Children’s Education Recovery and Childcare Costs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:12 pm on 7th June 2022.

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Photo of Bridget Phillipson Bridget Phillipson Shadow Secretary of State for Education 4:12 pm, 7th June 2022

I beg to move,

That this House
notes it is a year since the resignation of the Education Recovery Commissioner Sir Kevan Collins;
condemns the Government’s continued failure in that time to deliver an ambitious plan for children’s recovery, including supporting their mental health and wellbeing;
is concerned that the inadequate attention being paid to childcare, both for the youngest children and around the school day, is allowing the attainment gap to widen and costs to soar for parents at a time when there is significant pressure on household finances;
and calls on the Government to match Labour’s ambitious plan for children’s recovery, including measures to keep childcare costs down for parents while the cost of living crisis continues.

Children’s voices are rarely heard in this place, but today I want to put them right at the centre of our discussions. With half-term over, I want to wish the very best of luck to all of the young people sitting exams this week and in the weeks to come. They deserve all of our good wishes, but they deserve far more than that. They deserve to be at the heart of how we think about our country and how we think about the Britain we want to build.

The last two and a half years have been an extraordinary time for all of us—for families, and for schools, colleges, nurseries and universities. I pay tribute to the staff right across the education sector, including teaching assistants, university lecturers, school caretakers, admin staff, childminders, catering staff, everyone who teaches in our schools and colleges, headteachers and nursery workers. So many people deserve recognition, and all parents know it, so I place on record again Labour’s thanks to them for all that they have done.

It has also been an extraordinary and challenging time for our children. After all, they only get one childhood, and although experts have lined up to tell the Conservative party how much it matters to put in place a recovery plan for their education and wellbeing—not just for their learning now, but for their futures—still this Government are failing them. That failure and neglect are even clearer today when the Education Secretary cannot even be bothered to turn up to debate the action we need to secure our children’s futures. He can spend endless hours touring broadcast studios, praising his lawbreaking boss, who has lost the trust of the British people and his own Back Benchers, but he cannot find time to be here with us today to debate how our children recover from the greatest disruption to their learning and lives in peacetime.

It is just over a year since the Prime Minister’s own expert adviser, Sir Kevan Collins, resigned from his post as education recovery commissioner. Sir Kevan’s own words on why he felt that necessary were sadly prophetic:

“A half-hearted approach risks failing hundreds of thousands of pupils.”

He went on to say:

“The support announced so far does not come close to meeting the scale of the challenge and is why I have no option but to resign.”

That is exactly what happened. Sir Kevan repeated his warnings after the autumn Budget, describing the continued lack of an ambitious plan for our children as “incredibly disappointing” and warning that the “meagre measures” the Education Secretary could squeeze out of the Chancellor were a “false economy” that would cost our country dearly in the long term. That warning has been echoed by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the Education Policy Institute, front-line teachers, parents and so many others. The Education Secretary is fond of telling us that he has been “studying the evidence” but when are Ministers going to start acting on it?