In March 2020, when schools closed, they were put in the most unenviable of positions. With guidelines changing multiple times a day and Head Teachers having to implement these changes, teachers and other school staff did the best they could to keep our children as safe as possible whilst trying not to put themselves in danger. They went above and beyond for our children and our community.
But where teachers and school staff have their unions to protect them and provide advice and support, where could parents turn? Talking to other parents can be useful and asking already overburdened schools felt a step too far. Once the novelty of being contained with our nearest and dearest had waned, there was a real feeling of uncertainty starting to emerge.
Working with other educationalists and local unions, we found ourselves to be in a similar situation, both to each other, and to other parents. We had that feeling that something needed to be done to help, to make everything easier and okay. But how and what? We discovered as a group that although our personal situations were very different, we all had similar, yet very different concerns regarding our children and their education during the lockdown. All of these concerns were valid and all of them needed addressing. None of them were unique. That was how Redbridge for Education came together. We wanted to support local parents during this deeply worrying time.
We set up on social media and organised a few public meetings online, with the aim of sharing experiences and information and finding out what the biggest issues were that should be addressed. We had a fantastic turnout and excellent speakers and we found there were three core issues. One was the safety of children in school, another was food poverty and the third was digital exclusion. There were, of course, many more, but these were by far the biggest, and they remain a concern now.
Our laptop and devices campaign kick-started when we were contacted by a parent who told us their child’s school had undertaken no online learning due to the large number of children either without a device or access to the internet. We realised that this was the story in many schools locally and nationally and knew it was time to take real action.
Over a year on from the first lockdown, over 30,000 children in Redbridge live in poverty and it is estimated that at least 7,000 had no access to online education during the lockdown of March 2020 and most of the second in January 2021. Our belief is that every child in the UK has the right of equal access to education. We may still have a mountain ahead to climb, but our children are our future and we can’t let them down.
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