Shadow minister visits Rotherham schools, highlights need for support for pupils and teachers

SHADOW minister Bridget Phillipson said a visit to Rotherham had clearly shown the need for more help for pupils and staff both in and out of school — with hungry kids pinching food and heads struggling to find enough teachers.

The shadow education secretary and Labour MP toured schools in the Rother Valley, including one in Todwick, alongside the party’s candidate for the next election, Jake Richards.

She said she had heard that even in schools where free meals were on offer, some children were still stealing from the canteen as their parents were unable to make ends meet.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“It is difficult to hear the challenges around cost of living and how parents are struggling to hear the effect on teachers and how it’s having real impact on the education of a lot of children,” she said.

She said teachers were doing their best but said much more needed to be done to ensure all children started the school day well-fed.

Labour has vowed to scrap a VAT exemption for private schools and use the proceeds to boost the national education budget.

Ms Phillipson said heads in the Rother Valley  had spoken of being unable to find teachers due to a national shortage, sometimes receiving no applications at all for vacancies.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

She also highlighted the national issues around mental health issues, with children often waiting years to be assessed for autism and other conditions and for an educational health and care plan to be put in place.

Ms Phillipson said Labour had pledged to deliver a mental health professional into every school daily, adding: “The sooner we pick up on the problems, the sooner we can put the right support in place.

“We need long term reform to the system to ensure children have all the support that they need.”

On the issues of pupil behaviour and mental health, Ms Phillipson said many had not settled again after the pandemic, adding: “The government should have done more to give schools support that they needed to reintegrate children.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Mr Richards said stagnation in teachers’ pay was a factor in the shortage of staff, especially specialists in certain subjects.

“Children are just not getting the resources they need further education and too often teachers are filling in holes in the system,” he said.

“We have children coming to school hungry and stealing from the canteen. Families are going hungry and struggling.

Schools do not have all the budgets they need and speaking to head teachers and staff shows this.”

The Department for Education has been contacted for comment.