Today I spoke in the Westminster Hall Debate on support for pupils’ education during school closures. You can read an extract from my speech below:
This is an urgent issue, and one that many colleagues have been talking about since the start of lockdown. Just yesterday I heard from one of my headteachers, who said that she was still waiting for the 114 laptops that the school had ordered and that were due to arrive last Wednesday. That is despite assurances given to Members of Parliament that laptops should arrive within 48 hours of being ordered. It is clear that the Government have inexplicably failed to plan ahead, once again putting kids last, not first, in this pandemic.
I am also disappointed that the Government seemingly took their foot off the accelerator in supporting kids to learn at home, following the easing of lockdown. They had a woefully slow start in March, which is on public record, with only 51,000 of the 200,000 laptops promised in March delivered by the end of May. I had to put in a freedom of information request to find that out. That was compounded by chaos in the supply of free school meals during lockdown, and a lack of guidance for teachers and support for parents.
Roll the clock forward nine months and it appears, on one level, that not much has changed. Incremental progress has been made, but it is utterly piecemeal and still far too confused. That has continued to be a hallmark of this Government. While the Department for Education should be making administrative decisions with clarity and forward planning, it instead lurches from crisis to crisis. It is not an excuse to say that the new variant took us by surprise, because a variant was expected. The NHS had sought to plan ahead; the rest of the Government clearly had not.
You can read my full speech here.