WARRINGTON Borough Council Leader Cllr Russ Bowden and Cllr Matt Smith, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, have set out their fears for the town’s young people in a frank and hard-hitting letter to the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson.
The two leading councillors are dismayed at the confusion, lack of joined-up thinking and sheer number of U-turns that they have seen from the Government’s “mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic” in recent months, at a time when children and their families are in real need of clarity and responsibility as they prepare to return to school.
Cllr Bowden said:“Ensuring that children get off to a flying start in life is a cornerstone of Warrington’s Labour administration, and for a number of years now we are proud to have been a high achiever in the North West with our educational outcomes and children’s social care. This is absolutely central to our values because we know that when disadvantage is not addressed in childhood it can have a lasting effect on a person’s life chances. Each child only has one childhood, so there is one opportunity to get it right.
“In 2020, this Government has got it wrong for young people, and it’s because they seem to have little regard for detail in the systems they have put in place. On the vitally important provision of a free school meal, the Edenred voucher system just wasn’t up to the task. Our headteachers had a real problem on their hands but rightly they weren’t prepared to see any child go hungry. Together with council officers they worked incredibly hard to ensure that every child received their entitlement, at a time when everyone was already under immense pressure because of Covid-19.”
Councillor Smith added: “This year’s public examinations now look like a slow-motion car crash. Education professionals could see the problems looming whilst young people and their parents became increasingly fearful as results day approached. To release one set of results that was riddled with anomalies and unfairness and then U-turn, caused widespread chaos and avoidable distress to students whose university and training offers hung in the balance.
“Thankfully many young people are now able to pursue the next steps they aspired to, having received Centre Assessed Grades that reflected their hard work. We’ve also seen strong results across the Borough at GCSE. What’s less certain now is the impact on next year’s exam cohorts. It is vitally important that the new Year 11 and Year 13 students receive the additional support, funding and access to fair examinations that they deserve, if we are to avoid entrenching gaps in attainment that could hold them back in future.
“We are calling on the Secretary of State to square up to the reality of this situation and ensure that schools receive unambiguous practical guidance as children return to school. We hope that there will be a sensible consideration of what curriculum material can fairly be included in next year’s examinations. In addition there must be adequate funding to support children as they readjust to school life and begin the task of catching up on these missed months of school-based learning.
“Above all, we are asking the Government to recognise the impact of Covid-19 on children and young people in this town and ensure that they receive all the support that they deserve.”
The full letter can be read HERE