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

That is very generous of the hon. Gentleman—very generous indeed. I am sure we will all be waiting eagerly to hear his contribution.

Let us not forget how important education recovery should be to the Government, and how much it matters to children, to families and to their futures, to our economy, to our country and to all our futures. Almost 2 million of our youngest children have never known a school year uninterrupted by covid. Students sitting their GCSEs this summer lost around one in four days of face-to-face teaching in year 10. Parents, headteachers and nursery managers who I met across the country told me about delays to children’s speech and language development, about how children struggle to use a knife and fork, about a loss of confidence in our young people, and about their frustrations at being unable to get children the help and support they so desperately need. They have also warned, as has Ofsted, about the explosion in mental health conditions among our young people. At national level, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has been clear that failing to support our children’s recovery now will cost the economy an estimated £300 billion. What bar for evidence do those warnings not meet? Who else needs to tell the Government about the crisis our children face before they finally cotton on? What more reasons do Ministers need to act to protect our children’s futures?

The Government have failed our children. We see in the behaviour of Ministers a heady blend of three distinct approaches to the responsibility of Government. Sometimes they do nothing, or sometimes they do not turn up. Sometimes they actively make things worse and sometimes they belatedly accept that the Opposition are right, but not before families and children have paid the price for their pride. The first two sadly dominate their approach to our children. It has been a pattern throughout recent years. Time and again they have treated our children as an afterthought. We saw that when the support that children needed to learn at home was delayed, and when exams were thrown into chaos for not one year, but two. We saw it over 18 long months of inaction on school ventilation. We saw it when Government Members voted to let our children go hungry during the holidays and—perhaps most powerfully—we saw it when pubs were reopened before our schools.

We saw it in the winter when the Government did nothing for months, even after suppliers warned that the national tutoring programme was at risk of catastrophic failure, and we saw it this spring when we discovered that the Conservatives’ lack of interest in our children’s outcomes had gone so far as to pay tutors to sit in empty classrooms. We saw it in March when I asked the Secretary of State whether he believed that the delivery of the national tutoring programme had been a success. Even he was unable to provide a simple yes. He knows that it has been a disaster and he is not even here to defend it. We see it now as millions of secondary school students face exams without any support to recover the learning that they have lost.