Local Member of the Welsh Parliament for Monmouth, Nick Ramsay, questioned Kirsty Williams MS, the Welsh Government Education Minister in the Senedd earlier this week on the impact of lockdown on children who are not able to attend school.
Kirsty Williams responded: “The disruption to schools has had a significant impact on learners' progression, health and well-being and confidence. It has affected some more than others—particularly those that are in the examination cohorts, the early years, and those that are disadvantaged in some way. We are working with our partners to develop a sustainable and resilient approach to promoting learning as we emerge from this pandemic.”
Nick then asked: “Thank you, Minister, for that frank and honest answer. As you've touched on in that answer, home schooling and associated issues have presented a number of challenges for families during the pandemic. Whilst many schools have seen an increase in the number of pupils attending hub provision, the overwhelming majority of children are still at home, and a large number are struggling, particularly where parents are balancing home schooling with homeworking and other issues. Whilst I welcome the £9.4 million announced by the mental health and well-being Minister last week, can you confirm that we will see a ramping up of counselling and emotional support for children and young people in our schools, and indeed their families as well, and that this will be an urgent priority of the Government during the current budget process and beyond that, so that these families can get the support that they need as we come out of the pandemic?”
The Minister replied: “Thank you, Nick, for your recognition of the real challenges that families have been facing at this time. I don't think anybody has not found home schooling or supporting remote learning at home particularly challenging. I'll hold my hands up myself; it is really, really difficult to do, and if you are working yourself, then it is particularly challenging. I want to say thank you to parents across Wales who have been working to support their children throughout this time. They've done a sterling job, and I know sometimes that has come at the expense of their own well-being. I'm very grateful to them.
“Going forward, as part of our recovery programme, we need to address both the issue of interrupted learning from a content point of view, but we also need to ensure that our children's emotional health and well-being needs are also addressed, so that they're in a position to learn. Sometimes, the discussion around recovery is all about cramming in more opportunities for more lessons. But as Yeats is sometimes said to have said, education is not about pouring more into the pail, it is about lighting fires. Our approach to recovery will be about supporting learners to re-engage and to relight that fire as well as addressing the issues of content that they may have missed.”