In recognition of the extraordinary challenges faced by schools in England and Wales, the National Education Union (@NEUnion) and the @DailyMirror today (26 Jan) launch #HelpAChildToLearn appeal - with an initial £1 million fund from the NEU - to supply learning materials such as pens, paper, card and crayons for those pupils who do not have these remote learning essentials in their homes.

4.2 million children are growing up trapped in poverty – an average of 9 children in every class of 30 – with many more families being pushed into hardship through job losses, illness and changing circumstances. Too many children do not have the tools for home learning. Schools and colleges have been doing everything they can to meet this need, but they were already under considerable financial strain before the pandemic. The added costs of Covid-security means that students’ needs far outstrip school budgets.

That is why the National Education Union and the Daily Mirror are together stepping up to support children and young people who do not have the most basic resources needed for remote learning.

We are initially contacting schools in England and Wales with the greatest number of pupils on Free School Meals. Offers will be made proportionate to school size, in gradients of £500, £1,000 and £1,500. This will enable them to purchase stationery for learning at home. Schools with this highest level of need in every region of England and Wales will be contacted.

The fund will be distributed by our partner, Viking, a leading supplier for workplace solutions across Europe, in the form of a voucher. Schools will make their own judgements about which materials have the most impact on disadvantaged students' engagement with learning. This practical help, given to the most disadvantaged children and young people, will go some way towards alleviating their feeling of being left behind.

We cannot reach every child, but we are determined to reach as many as we can.

Last week, the Sutton Trust called for an immediate pupil premium boost of £750m from Government to schools and colleges as learning continues in lockdown. We support this recommendation and hope that Gavin Williamson, Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson will pledge to make this investment in young people and their future.

We have also created the NEU Remote Education Hub to support the profession to develop high-quality remote education, with opportunities for teachers to support each other and share their tips, and strategies for each subject.

A new survey of over 2,500 members of the NEU showed:

  • * 95% of respondents told us they are teaching students with limited or no access to learning resources at home.
  • * One in four respondents (27%) told us that half or more of their pupils were in this situation.
  • * Members agree that access to practical materials will boost engagement and self-confidence when learning from home (75%).

Respondents told us:

“It’s not a level playing field, children not having resources lowers their self-esteem.”

“The older students struggle to buy revision guides and A-level textbooks of their own if the school cannot resource them.”

“Pupils would bring in ‘work’ or ‘drawings’ which were on flyers or sheets of toilet paper in biro due to lack of resources at home.”

“I have to print and provide paper packs for home learning for all pupils in my class. We have also supplied them with a pencil, sharpener and rubber so they can complete these packs.”

The NEU welcomes donations to the Help a Child to Learn appeal from anyone who wants to take down the barriers and help children thrive. Your support will enable us to assist more schools and more young people. Donations to the Help a Child to Learn appeal can be made at www.helpachildtolearn.com .

Kevin Courtney and Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretaries of the National Education Union, the largest education union, said:

“Teachers and school leaders tell us that their poorest and most disadvantaged children’s learning is hampered because they do not have the basic essentials in their homes. Pupils cannot learn if they do not have paper to write on and pens to write with. They cannot engage in creative learning if they lack crayons and glue. Cardboard and toilet paper are not substitutes for exercise books.

"Our Help a Child to Learn campaign is driven by the level of need NEU members see in their pupils. The sheer scale of child poverty and its effects on children’s learning is heart-breaking. It should not be necessary, in 2021 to supply pupils with the very basics they need to participate in remote learning, but it is necessary and this campaign will rise to the challenge.

"With public help, and in addition to the £1 million pound contribution from the NEU, we will grow this fund to support more schools and even more pupils."

Jason Beattie, Assistant Editor, Daily Mirror, said:

"Help a Child to Learn is unfortunately a vital initiative between the Daily Mirror and the NEU to provide essential support to disadvantaged children and young people trapped in educational and financial poverty. Schools and families are struggling which is why we are urging the public to donate so that every child has the chance to learn, study and thrive in these difficult times."

Raffael Reinhold, CEO of Office Depot Europe, said:

“Viking is proud to work in partnership with NEU and support the campaign to provide the materials needed for teachers to continue to make a difference to the lives of their pupils."

Methodology: 2,645 members in England and Wales responded to the online survey, which was conducted between Thursday 21 January 2021 and Monday 25 January 2021.

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