Talk of levelling up and supporting our schools is talking the talk and far from walking the walk.
Jonathan Gullis, Conservative MP for Stoke North, has written about the good work being done by a local charity, the Hubb Foundation, providing food and activities for children in school holidays. He presents this as if he and the government are supporting people. He says nothing about why these children need this help, because this government is not interested in structural changes that will redistribute wealth. Recently in Newcastle under Lyme, the Alice Charity was reported being sad about the growth in demand for their work to help families. The Trussell Trust reported 74% rise in food parcels in the year before the pandemic took hold and keeps saying they want “a UK without the need for food banks”. On behalf of Church Action on Poverty, a group of 4 academics spent three years researching “Life on the Breadline” and concluded this year that charities “should not simply fill the gap but encourage policy to develop structural reforms”. An all-party charity called ‘Feeding Britain’ has called for “systemic change to eliminate hunger in the UK”.
With cuts to Universal Credit, increases in fuel costs, increases in other prices (due to Brexit and Covid), and inadequate government support for affordable rented accommodation, this government’s policies are making matters worse.
Conservative MPs all voted against a motion to provide for children in school holidays; they correctly say “it is the role of the school to educate, not to be the welfare state”, yet are not in favour of proper welfare. In spite of Boris’ words, this government has still to provide properly for better youth services, just one of many factors causing lack of achievement in school by some of our children. One report (as well as 2 others) in 2019 by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research said that factors outside the school account for nearly 90% of the lack of achievement of pupils. So when are we going to get the systemic change to prevent children from living in poverty and under-achieving in our schools ?
Nigel Jones (August 2021)