Yesterday, I gave a speech in the debate on Free School Meals, thanking our teachers and those at the front line supporting our children. You can watch this above or, if you can't see it, click here.
I also want to provide a further update on laptop provision, Free School Meal distribution, and other measures I am taking to ensure that our children are not unfairly disadvantaged by the national lockdown.
Free School Meals
- Last week, after receiving concerns about a small number of substandard meal boxes, I met with the Children's Minister to raise these concerns. I was pleased to see that the government recognise the issue and issued stronger guidance.
- Free School Meal boxes are provided via a contract directly with the school. If you receive a Free School Meal box that is below par, please in the first instance let your school know about this. You are welcome to copy me in so I can follow the situation. I spent the Summer working with headteachers on how best to provide FSMs and so I know that they want the best possible food delivered. If you remain unhappy with the provisions you may want to get in touch with the Department For Education directly via their hotline 0800 046 8687. More info here.
- In my speech, I made reference to the package of support secured for families during school holidays. Along with Free School Meals until the end of the Easter Holidays, the Holiday Activities and Food Programme has been expanded. After supporting the Opposition Motion to back FSMs for the October half-term, I am pleased to confirm that North Lincs Council will be providing Free School Meals support during the February half-term through these government initiatives.
Laptops and remote learning devices
- To counteract the impact of the lockdown on our children, I worked with local schools in the first week of national lockdown to push the Department for Education for extra laptops.
- We are receiving regular updates from the DofE on this and I hope that we will see the benefits of the government's target of providing hundreds of thousands more laptops and tablets – reaching a total of more than 1 million.
Thanking our teachers and school staff
- Having worked closely with our headteachers I know how difficult it was for everyone to continue working during the lockdown. I really wanted to use my time in Parliament to thank our teachers for going far beyond the call of duty during this pandemic. As I mentioned, all school staff have had to take on additional roles in IT, Counselling and Admin on top of usual duties; not forgetting the immense efforts required to keep up with Covid Secure guidance.
- As a result, I have asked the government to consider pay increases for teachers at upcoming pay reviews in recognition of the work they have done. Having 'visited' some schools virtually last year, I have seen the level of genius required to keep a class in check through a computer screen (!), and this should be considered.
- I have already made the case for some teachers to receive vaccine priority by asking the Health Secretary "if he will give priority to teachers and support staff in special schools to receive the covid-19 vaccine where the use of personal protective equipment potentially hinders communication and social distancing may be difficult". I am happy to provide the Secretary's response to this; please email me if you would like to receive it.