Shabana Mahmood, MP for Birmingham Ladywood, has criticised the Government for its failure to support parents and teachers in the city gain access to vital information needed for home schooling.
Under current guidance, if a household does not have access to remote learning equipment or the internet the child can be considered to be vulnerable and therefore eligible to attend school. However, this is a little-known aspect of the current lockdown rules mean that some of the 5,000 children in Birmingham who don’t have access to a computer may be left behind.
In response to a Written Parliamentary Question tabled by Shabana Mahmood MP, the Education Minister stated that:
“Some pupils who have difficulty engaging in remote education may be considered to be vulnerable children and therefore eligible to attend school. It is up to the child’s school or local authority to make this decision.”
Therefore, the Government is relying on schools and colleges to inform parents of the support on offer, which can lead to a postcode lottery of information.
Shabana Mahmood, MP for Birmingham Ladywood, said:
“The approach of the Government to kid’s education in Birmingham has been atrocious. First, we had children going back to school for one day after the Christmas holidays and now we are seeing a growing digital divide. By putting the responsibility on schools and colleges to issue information about access to education we are sleepwalking into a postcode lottery for learning.
“It is clearly wrong for the Government to produce guidance that is tucked away on its website and hope that parents stumble across it. This pandemic has shown the weaknesses in our society and magnified them. Children without access to remote learning are clearly vulnerable and should have access to education.
“If the Government hadn’t bungled the roll-out of laptops to schools we would not be in this situation. We need a renewed focus on education and skills during the coronavirus epidemic and that means that the Government should take a lead on providing families with information on how to access education.”
Notes to editors:
Full written response to Written Parliamentary Question 134395 can be accessed here.
Education Department’s guidance on a child being considered vulnerable due to lack of access to remote learning can be found here.