Politically Speaking: By Yvette Cooper, MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford
Government have let down our children again
Throughout this pandemic, children and young people have missed out on so much.
This summer there should have been a proper government plan to deliver extra activities for them all. But once again most of them are being let down. It isn’t good enough.
Local people aren’t prepared to stand by while ministers fail our children.
We’ve had a great response to our local campaign to champion children - it puts the government to shame.
When schools had to close, and everything from school trips to work experience had to be cancelled, the government should have recognised the extra help children would need.
Instead at every point, ministers have been too slow.
Whether it was the lack of funding for catch-up tutoring and lessons, the mess over last year’s exam results, the chaotic bubbles system, laptops that never materialised, no free school meals, no help for special needs, the list goes on.
In contrast, people in our area have been pulling together. We’ve had loads of donations of children’s books and it was great to be able to deliver boxes of them to Simpson’s Lane, Cherry Tree Academy and Harewood Nursery last week. Seeing the children’s faces as they got to choose their summer holiday book to keep was wonderful. A huge thank you to all who’ve donated.
We’ve also had a great response from local businesses donating thousands of pounds to fund extra summer activities and trips for children. I’m going to keep this campaign up throughout the next year. So if you know a business that might also be able to support a local school, please get in touch. Schools and teachers have been heroic, juggling online and classroom learning in the most impossible of circumstances and they are full of ideas on how to help children get on again next year - but they need support from government to do it.
Wakefield Council is also doing a great job providing thousands of summer activity places and holiday lunches for children who won’t get free school meals through the summer break.
But it isn’t getting the funding from government it needs to be able to do more.
The government’s talk about levelling up is a joke if it won’t support children in towns like ours. Here is where it should start. It should be helping children catch up, re-opening the Sure Starts that were closed and guaranteeing young people apprenticeships and jobs this autumn.
Covid cases in our area have whipped right up because the government let the Delta variant rip.
Boris Johnson’s refused to put India on the red list in the spring and meant cases spread fast. By the so-called ‘Freedom Day’ more people than ever were in self-isolation, staff were off work, children missed the final weeks of school and people’s holidays were cancelled.
Yet when I challenged the home secretary about it in Parliament last week, she claimed the border measures were working! No one round here believes that.
We need proper action from government against new variants so we don’t go backwards. And we need support for our children to get them back on track.
Why does the prime minister just keep making the same mistakes again and again?