New research by Save the Children has found that more than one million families with children will rely on charity food parcels this Christmas, the Independent reports. Some 37 per cent of Britain’s poorest families – about 1.3 million – will turn to food parcels over the festive period, while 21 per cent, or about 760,000, will rely on donated gifts. The research, based on a survey of 1,000 parents on universal credit or child tax credit who have children under 18, suggests that of the 3.6 million such families across the UK, six in 10 will go into debt over the Christmas period.
A Guardian opinion piece by Polly Toynbee highlights the issue of mothers of two feeling pressured into having terminations for fear of impoverishing their family because of the two-child benefit limit calling it "entirely predictable". Toynbee predicts that many more mothers will face this dilemma "as tens of thousands lose their jobs in collapsing high-street retail and hospitality". When families are pushed into Universal Credit after the furlough scheme ends, families will be paid for only two children, and that "will catapult many households into further poverty".
Extra measures to "boost fairness and support students" will be used for next summer's GCSE and A-level exams in England, ministers have announced. More generous grading, advance notice of exam topics and additional papers are promised by the Department for Education to make up for the disruption faced by students during the pandemic. Heads said it was "a reasonable package" of measures for the situation. The DfE says it has had "extensive engagement" with exams watchdog Ofqual, exam boards and senior leaders across the education sector. Read more on BBC News.
Schools and disadvantaged families faced “difficulties and delays” accessing free school meals during the first few weeks of the initial Covid-19 lockdown, the National Audit Office (NAO) has revealed. A contractor without experience of dealing with schools was deployed to distribute vouchers which were delayed while families and headteachers struggled to access support and help, either by phone or email, the NAO found. Read more in CYP Now.
The "invisibility of vulnerable children" during the pandemic should be a "matter of national concern," says England's chief inspector of schools. Amanda Spielman warns when many pupils were out of school in the lockdown, teachers might not have picked up early warning signs of abuse or neglect. The chief inspector says such children, at risk of harm, slipped out of sight. Launching her annual report, Ms Spielman says it should now be a priority to find such overlooked cases. The Ofsted chief also raises concerns about the pressures on families of children with special educational needs - saying many were "struggling to cope". Read more on BBC News.
A third of children in the UK do not see themselves in the books they read, according to a survey of almost 60,000 children and young people by the National Literacy Trust. The responses from 58,346 children and young people aged nine to 18 were gathered between January and mid-March, in what the NLT is calling the first large-scale exploration of diversity in children’s books that focuses on children’s own experiences. The research found that 33% of children did not see themselves in what they read, with the proportion increasing to 40% of children from ethnic minority backgrounds, and to 46% of children from black ethnic backgrounds. Just 31% of children from white backgrounds struggled to find books where characters looked like them. “The struggle to find characters who look similar, or share similar characteristics or circumstances, can impact a child’s engagement with reading and its lifelong benefits,” said the NLT. Read more in The Guardian.