@KateGreenSU - Labour to force vote on support for families during lockdown school and college closures
Labour will force a vote in the House of Commons on Monday demanding that the Government deliver more support for families while schools and colleges are closed to most pupils. Labour is demanding the Government guarantee that children will receive the full value of free school meals support including in the school holidays, and set a date by which every pupil will have the equipment needed to learn remotely.
Yesterday the Government said that children will not receive Free School Meals over February half-term despite previously being shamed into providing them over the Christmas holidays. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has claimed that other funding could be used for half-term, despite conditions on this fund stating should not replace Free School Meals.
This follows the revelation from Labour that the Government’s recommended food parcel is near identical to the images circulating on social media which the Prime Minister has described as “an insult to the families receiving them.”
Labour is also demanding that Education Secretary Gavin Williamson set a date by when all pupils will have the laptops and internet access needed to learn remotely. The Government have previously missed their own deadlines for delivering access to remote learning, and there are still 600,000 promised laptops and tablets yet to be delivered to pupils. Until the Government delivers these resources thousands of students are unable to learn remotely during lockdown, causing them to fall behind their peers.
Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Education, said:
“The Government’s failure to control the spread of the pandemic is putting intolerable strain on families in lockdown.
“Parents are desperately trying to do their best for their children, stopping them from going hungry and keeping them learning, but ten months into this pandemic the Government has still not provided the support these families need.
“Ensuring that all children are receiving the full value of free school meals and have the equipment needed to learn remotely should be a
The motion tabled is as follows:
- That this House believes families need more support during school and college closures, that those eligible should be guaranteed to receive the full value of free school meals for the duration of the school year, including during all holidays and calls on the Secretary of State for Education to set a deadline to ensure that every learner has the resources required to learn remotely and provide a weekly update to Parliament on implementing this.
- At Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday 13 January Boris Johnson said, of the food parcels seen on social media:
- “I don’t think anybody in this House is happy with the disgraceful images we’ve seen of the food parcels that have been offered. They are appalling, they are an insult to the families that have received them.”
- However, the food parcels appeared to be largely consistent with the government’s own guidance on what the parcels need to contain.
- “Schools do not need to provide lunch parcels or vouchers during the February half-term.”
- The government has said the Covid Winter Grant funding can be used to provide free school meals support for children, but guidance for the grant states:
- “The COVID Winter Grant Scheme is not intended to replicate or replace free school meals and authorities should avoid duplicating provision where possible.” https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-winter-grant-scheme/covid-winter-grant-scheme-guidance-for-local-councils#establishing-eligibility
- In the first period of school closures the government missed their own target for providing laptops and devices for disadvantaged pupils who needed them.
- The government has promised 1.3million laptops will be delivered to support remote learning: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/hundreds-of-thousands-more-laptops-to-support-disadvantaged-pupils-learn-at-home
- Department for Education statistics show only 702,000 of these laptops had been delivered as of 12th January, leaving a further 600,000 laptops to be delivered https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/951739/Laptops_and_Tables_Data_as_of_12_January.pdf