A local charity supporting children with their reading, writing and counting is challenging the government to do more for disadvantaged children to ensure the “education chasm” doesn’t widen further due to the pandemic.
The comments from Every Child Our Future (ECOF) come as Jersey marks its first ever Children’s Day today.
The annual event was announced last year as part of the Government’s response to the findings and recommendations of the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry, which was published in 2017 and exposed huge failings in the island's care system.
The Citizens' Panel – a group of islanders who have been working with the government on improving in the wake of the Inquiry – said that the aim of the day was to "remember the survivors and victims" of the past, as well as focusing on the needs of children and young people now.
“We hope this day will inspire children and adults to try new things and think in new ways leaving a positive footprint for future generations," they said.
Pictured: Children's Day was announced in response to the findings and recommendations of the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry (IJCI).
But whilst the Government pledged to 'Put Children First' today and everyday in the wake of the Care Inquiry, ECOF says now is the perfect time to see “full force of that commitment to helping those struggling children on the island”.
The charity pointed out that many disadvantaged children have fallen behind in their education as a result of the extended school closures caused by the pandemic, either because they did not have access to the technology needed to benefit from online learning, or because their parents were not able to support them.
“So far, the only additional funding that has been announced by the Government of Jersey is a hardship fund to help out parents of children in fee-paying States schools who have struggled to keep up with fees as a result of changes in financial circumstances,” Gillian Arthur, Director and Co-founder of ECOF, wrote in an opinion piece published in Express today.
The charity has therefore called for a structured plan setting out a range of measures to “rectify the damaging impact of school closures”.
Pictured: ECOF says now is the time to see the full force of the Government's commitment to put children first.
“At Every Child Our Future, we believe the best way to help children to catch up with their peers is to put in targeted extra support in schools,” Ms Arthur wrote.
“Addressing basic literacy and numeracy must be part of the package and with specific focus on those who were already trailing far behind their classmates.”
ECOF also suggested funding for extra tutoring to allow children to catch up through individual sessions.
While the charity is hoping for a more permanent and holistic commitment to children's learning, the Education Department has gone some way to rectifying the tech gap, having acquired 300 internet devices - including laptops and iPads - through purchase and a social media donation scheme to help with home learning earlier this month.
Headteachers then provided a list of which students had limited technology, and these were then loaned out.
St. Helier Youth and Community Trust has also helped try to bridge the tech gap, recently giving Haute Vallée £6,000 for purchasing mobile technology.
Pictured: Haute Vallée School has received £6,000 to buy devices for students and families to continue to access learning.
To mark the first ever Children's Day today, schools and nurseries around the island have been invited to choose a tree to plant in their grounds as a symbol of regeneration and growth.
Children and young people have also been invited to take part in a creative tree project, to celebrate childhood, using the symbols of roots, growth and blossom through various pieces of work such as posters, poems, artwork, models or song.
Speaking about the event, Senator Sam Mézec, the Children’s Minister, said: “As the Minister for Children, I am proud to commemorate this important landmark in our island’s history and will continue to work tirelessly with other Ministers, elected States Members and officers to improve any areas where the Panel remain concerned.
"The theme of Children’s Day links with the views from children and young people during the recent survey, in which they shared their experiences of the covid-19 lockdown and their hopes for the future.”
Pictured: Children and young people have been invited to take part in a creative tree project.
Meanwhile, the Bosdet Foundation will also be marking the day by giving every primary school child a free trampoline session at Jump Jersey at Les Ormes.
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