official portrait of Siobhain McDonagh

Parents cannot afford equipment for children to learn, MPs claim

South west London MPs are alarmed about children’s mental health, warning that many parents in the region cannot afford the technology to homeschool their children.

Siobhain McDonagh, Labour MP for Mitcham and Morden believes that this could lead to low levels of wellbeing and a poor quality education for those children from lower economic backgrounds.

She and Twickenham MP Munira Wilson are concerned that the Government doesn’t have an effective strategy to tackle these issues.

McDonagh said “We’re seeing the consequence of poverty and poor pay writ large in this disease.

“During the first lockdown, 20% of children on free school meals did less than one hours school work a day.”

McDonagh wants all students to have access to smart devices like laptops, at a time when 363 young people from St Mark’s Academy, in her constituency, are having to share within their own household. 

This means working with companies like the mobile network 02, who donated 75 phones with unlimited calls and emails, and a small amount of data, in the last week.

Issues surrounding homeschooling disproportionately impact those who receive free school meals.

Families in Twickenham are suffering too, according to Wilson.

The Lib Dem MP said: “I am deeply concerned about the lengthy closure of schools last academic year and this year and the damage we are inflicting on children and young people.

“Parents have told me they’re concerned about anxiety and behavioural issues that they’ve seen deteriorate as a result of prolonged periods outside of school.

“What I’m particularly upset and frustrated by is that there has never appeared to be any clear plan.

“People like Steve Chalke, who runs big academy schools and various other headteachers and professionals in this area have come up with a whole host of creative ideas on how we can improve safety in schools, yet the Government doesn’t seem to be listening to them.”

To make matters worse, some are falling through the cracks.

Wilson told of a young household based in Whitton who have two secondary school aged children and one primary school aged child.

Because both parents have jobs they fall just above the threshold to receive benefits, which means they don’t qualify for a free computer from the Government and are having to borrow a laptop. 

At a national level, Wilson is supporting an application for there to be a backbench debate in parliament, to deal with the problem of when schools can return.

This week she tabled an Early Day Motion, calling for a plan for schools to safely reopen during the pandemic.

It has gained traction, with Conservative, Labour, and Green Party sponsors.

Featured image credit: Richard Townshend with CC 3.0 license via Wikipedia Commons

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