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James Wild: Pupils will be given a £1bn boost

The latest column from North West Norfolk's MP, Friday, August, 28, 2020

Sadly, many young people have missed out on several months of schooling due to Covid-19.

I was sitting in the House of Commons when the Education Secretary made his statement announcing that schools would be closing almost immediately due to Covid-19. That decision means that many children have not had formal education for several months and it is young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who have suffered.

That is why it is important that schools reopen for all pupils next month. This will only be possible thanks to the hard work of teachers and school staff and the measures they have put in place so that teaching can happen in a Covid-19 secure way.

James Wild's column, Friday, August 28, 2020
James Wild's column, Friday, August 28, 2020

As the Chief Medical Officer has said, the risk of contracting Covid-19 in school is very small and it is much more damaging for a child’s development and their health and well-being to be away from school any longer. Children can now return to learn and to be with their friends.

Simply reopening schools is not enough though. A £1 billion catch-up fund has been created to tackle the impact of lost teaching time. As part of that scheme the government has launched a package to help reception age children boost their early language skills which may have suffered as a result of the pandemic.

Literacy is key to young people’s life chances. This week I spoke to the Norfolk Reading Project, a local charity that aims to raise literacy standards by providing additional opportunities for children to practise reading. Their 150 volunteers regularly listen to children read on a one-to-one basis in 50 schools across the county with six across North West Norfolk including Whitefriars.

New Reading Support Volunteers are needed as demand is set to grow to help children who may have fallen even further behind due to Covid-19, while many of the most experienced volunteers are in vulnerable groups, so they may be unable to go into schools to support children.

Volunteers are trained and then usually go into schools for 2-3 hours a week in term time to help young people with reading. If you can help then please go to www.thenorfolkreadingproject.co.uk

Latest figures show that West Norfolk has the lowest Covid-19 transmission rate in Norfolk with 0.66 cases per 100,000 people. However, it is essential that we all remain vigilant and continue to follow the social distancing guidance in order to keep the virus under control. The test and trace system is there to help control any local outbreaks.

Ultimately, the best way to protect us from future outbreaks is to develop effective vaccines. Several vaccine trials are being conducted around the UK in the coming month and over 100,000 people have volunteered to take part. Anyone interested can sign up at the NHS COVID-19 Vaccine Research Registry to help the NHS.

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