Pupils need chance to play and develop as part of recovery plan, says Labour

·3-min read

All children should be given opportunities to “play, learn and develop” as part of a multibillion-pound programme to help pupils catch up, Labour has said.

Shadow education secretary Kate Green accused the Conservatives of “showing no ambition for children’s futures” as the party called for schools to be given additional resources to deliver the recovery support needed.

Labour has published its two-year £14.7 billion education recovery plan, which sets out proposals to help children after months of disruption to their learning.

Extracurricular activities and breakfast clubs should be expanded to boost time for children to play and socialise after months away from their friends, the report said.

It adds that quality mental health support should be in every school, small group tutoring should be available to all children who need it, and teachers should be offered continued development over the next two years.

The Government’s education recovery commissioner Sir Kevan Collins is considering long-term proposals to address the impact of Covid on children.

But Labour’s vision for the education recovery does not include any proposals to extend the school day or to shorten the summer holidays.

It says ministers should invest in a new, two-year Education Recovery Premium to support pupils who have faced the greatest disruption.

Labour said the fund should be targeted at children who would typically benefit from pupil premium funding – which is given to schools to support children eligible for free school meals – and those who should receive this help but do not because of their specific circumstances or phase of education.

Ms Green said: “Children are excited to be back in the classroom with their friends and hungry to learn. After such disruption, we owe it to them to match their energy and motivation with the support and resources they need to thrive, not just whilst they catch up, but for their school careers and beyond.

“Our plans deliver this, by funding activities to combine learning and play while investing in our teachers and staff, Labour will ensure that children not only recover, but are supported to push on.

“In contrast, the Conservatives are showing no ambition for children’s futures.”

She added: “Labour’s innovative plans, informed by parents, teachers and children, will deliver not just a world-class education for all based on play and social development, but fulfilled and confident young people.

“We must match the ambition children have for their own futures and put them at the heart of our national recovery. This is an investment that our children’s futures and the future of our country depends on.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “We agree with Labour that children’s happiness and wellbeing should be prioritised as well as their education, and that ‘play’ and ‘develop’ are as important as ‘learn’.

“It is important to be mindful of the trade-offs and unintended consequences of any recovery idea being proposed. For example, the marginal gains that might be possible through extending the school day must be weighed against the costs of such a strategy, including the impact on pupils’ mental health, reduced family time and less time for extra-curricular activities.”

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