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Children: Equality of Opportunity

Volume 689: debated on Wednesday 10 February 2021

What steps she is taking to ensure that children throughout the UK have equality of opportunity. (912137)

What steps she is taking to ensure that children throughout the UK have equality of opportunity. (912141)

What steps she is taking to ensure that children throughout the UK have equality of opportunity. (912142)

Spreading opportunity is a top priority across Government. That is why we are levelling up school standards and investing over £7.1 billion more in schools by 2022-23 than in 2019-20. We are committed to providing extra support for the education of disadvantaged children during the pandemic, including through our £350 million national tutoring programme.

In Wales, there has been a reduction in real-terms education spending in the last 10 years of 8.4%. I appreciate that education is devolved, but the children of Delyn are also children of the United Kingdom. As my hon. Friend’s brief effectively spans all Government Departments from an equalities standpoint, what can she do to ensure that children in Wales are not forgotten by the UK Government?

My hon. Friend is correct that education is a devolved matter in Wales. However, it is important that we work closely together to ensure that every child receives the best education, wherever they live in the UK, and to give them the best start in life. For example, our UK-wide safeguarding policy is essential to allow children to concentrate on their learning without fear of negative influence. Our equality data programme will seek to use data from across the UK to help inform future policy, making equality of opportunity a reality for all.

I thank the Minister for her reply and the initiatives contained within it. We know school closures have had a very unequal impact on children. Does she agree that the best way to address that is to safely reopen schools as quickly as possible?

We are committed to getting all pupils and students back into schools and colleges as soon as the public health picture allows. In doing so, the Government will be guided by the scientific and medical experts. When Parliament returns from recess in the week commencing 22 February, we intend to publish our plan for taking the country out of lockdown, including plans for reopening education. We hope we will be able to commence the full reopening of schools from Monday 8 March. We have committed to providing schools, parents and young people with a minimum of two weeks’ notice for that return to on-site provision.

What support for children with learning disabilities are the Government pursuing to ensure equality of opportunity?

The pandemic has been extremely challenging for many families with children and young people with special educational needs. Supporting them is a priority for this Government, and their wellbeing remains central to our response. My hon. Friend will be glad to know that we are providing £40.8 million this year for the Family Fund to help more than 80,000 low-income families who have children with disabilities or serious illnesses. That includes £13.5 million specifically in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which may include assistive technology to aid remote learning.