Helen Barnard, Director, Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Education and skills can unlock people from poverty: we must rise to the challenge of a new lockdown and build the foundations for a just recovery

The announcement of another lockdown was necessary but is another blow for families, schools, FE and HE providers already reeling from the unrelenting pressures of 2020.

As was the case last year, families on low incomes face fears about their jobs, how to afford the rent and with the added pressures of keeping warm during a Winter lockdown. Those with school age children are worried about how they will access education and how to cope with the digital divide. Those with older children worry about how they will get the qualifications they need to move on to the next phase of education, how they will find work and when it is safe for them to return to university or college.

For low-income families with school age children, two major issues were not addressed quickly or effectively enough during the first lockdown: home learning and free school meals. Despite the chaotic start to this lockdown, we have the chance now to do better, but fast action is required.

The move to home learning is highly likely to widen educational inequality

The move to home learning is highly likely to widen educational inequality. It was clear during the first lockdown that the remote learning offer varied wildly between schools. This was compounded by the lack of access to devices and the internet for children living in poverty. Despite several schemes being in place across the UK, the Children’s Commissioner estimated they targeted only between a third and a half of children without access to appropriate devices. Governments should urgently seek to address this by making cash or vouchers available to schools to purchase devices for the children that need them most. But access to devices is only part of this issue.

Households on low incomes are less likely to have an internet connection in the home. In England, schools can apply for 4G wireless routers for pupils, and the UK Government has worked with mobile phone networks to enable temporary increases to data allowances to households without fixed broadband access. Government should urgently mobilise, in partnership with local authorities and schools, to ensure those that need this support have access to it as quickly as possible.

Other issues are even harder to tackle quickly

Other issues are even harder to tackle quickly, such as a lack of space at home and the extent to which parents have the skills and time to support children to use devices and access learning. The offer of in-school education for vulnerable children or those facing additional difficulties has been there from the start but was not used as widely as might have been expected during the first lockdown. This time around it is vital that this capacity is used where it is most needed, and every effort made to prevent those children falling even further behind.

The provision of free school meals whilst children are not in school was one of the hottest issues of 2020. This time it is welcome that the government has immediately committed to ensuring that children eligible for Free School Meals will still be able to access them whilst out of school. However, the quality of provision in the first lockdown was inconsistent and voucher schemes are inflexible, stigmatising and not always easily accessible by families. The UK government should convert Free School Meal provision for pupils learning from home in England into cash payments as has happened in Northern Ireland, most of Wales and some parts of Scotland.

Finally, the immediate focus on how to keep children and young people safe and learning through this new lockdown must not obscure the urgent need to help adults who are losing work to improve their skills to find new and good quality jobs. Last November, the government’s Spending Review was a missed opportunity to take bold action to deliver this. The Chancellor did not do enough to help the people who lose their jobs improve their skills to find work. The £375 million adult skills announcement fell far short of the £600 million a year National Skills Fund the Government promised at the 2019 general election. The Government’s new £2.9 billion Restart employment support programme is a significant and welcome intervention at scale, and recognises the scale of the economic and employment challenge facing the UK in the months ahead. But committing just £400 million to the programme in 2021 risks underinvesting in the early stages.

In March 2020, we were uncertain how long the pandemic would be with us. Now, with vaccines being rolled out the end is hopefully in sight. It is only right that governments should do all they can to support people through this next period to protect jobs, incomes and the health of our communities and to prevent young people’s futures being scarred. As well as coping with the immediate pressures, we must also put in place the foundations to rebuild a just and inclusive post-pandemic economy.

Helen Barnard, Director, Joseph Rowntree Foundation

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Advertisers

Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.

Podcasts

We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.

Events

FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page