Kate Booth, Cabinet Member for Children’s Wellbeing, and Jayne Francis, Cabinet member for Education, Skills and Culture, write:

Today should have been the first day back for pupils after the Easter holidays. Instead, the vast majority of young people, teachers and parents in our city are staying at home and keeping safe.

We wrote to all Birmingham schools thanking staff for their incredible efforts at this time. Teachers are also frontline staff, as many are in schools teaching the children of key workers who are keeping our city running. Although the way pupils are being taught has changed, our teachers’ commitment to providing engaging, accessible learning for all has not. We also need to acknowledge the valuable input from non-teaching staff, and those working in early years’ settings. Without these staff going the extra mile we wouldn’t have been able to make school and early years support available to key workers in the city.

One of Birmingham Labour Council’s priorities when fighting COVID-19 in our city is making sure no child goes hungry. That’s why we did not just wait for the government to act. As a Labour Council we stepped in and ensured our 61,000 pupils on Free School Meals received vouchers which could be spent in local supermarkets. Families were able to use these vouchers over the Easter holidays. Usually this would not happen, but we were determined to provide those who are already struggling to get by extra help at this uncertain time. Council Leader Ian Ward has also written to the Department for Education with the leaders of other local authorities asking for the government to fund this, so that our ability to provide FSM in the future is not affected.

Finally, for all young people, it’s an incredibly uncertain time. Exams being cancelled means that pupils are worrying about their grades and their future. There is still no clear timetable from the government as to when schools will reopen. Social distancing means that young people are unable to spend time with their friends. We have commissioned Kooth to provide free digital mental health support to all our young people aged 11-25. It is safe, anonymous and there is no referral system or threshold you have to meet to get the support you need. For more details visit https://kooth.com.

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