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Education insights: Surge in free school meals, university students home for Christmas and teacher training cuts

The damaging impact of the pandemic continues with almost a million more children applying for free school meals and huge reductions in teacher training bursaries and scholarships being announced this week.

UK children applying for free school meals rises by an estimated 1 million

There has been a huge increase of around 1 million children in the UK registering for free school meals, according to analysis by the Food Foundation thinktank, meaning that an estimated 2.4 million children are now claiming. This is hugely concerning and reflects the deepening impact of the economic crisis caused by the pandemic. Poverty campaigners are urging ministers to prevent a growing food insecurity crisis for millions of children by widening eligibility for free lunches to all children under the age of 17 whose families are claiming universal credit or other benefits.

Covid: Decision on pausing in-person university lectures due 'shortly' - DfE

With only 10 weeks left until Christmas, university students across the UK and their parents have been hoping to make it back home to celebrate with their families safely after hearing rumours of students having to remain on campus over the Christmas holidays. The Department for Education has brought good news this week as they have announced a plan to stop in-person teaching to allow students to go home for Christmas. A spokesperson emphasised the importance of traveling home as safely as possible, reducing the risks of spreading the virus and a date will be set as to when universities must stop in-person teaching. This year it is more important than ever that students can look forward to going home for Christmas and be with their families.

Teacher training bursaries cut by 50%

Teacher trainers have been given some disappointing news that bursaries are to be cut by approximately 50% from the previous year’s budget leaving only secondary maths, physics, chemistry, biology, computer studies, languages and classic trainees eligible for bursaries in 2021-22. James Noble-Rogers, executive director of UCET, said “student teachers are a hugely beneficial resource for schools at the moment and the government must not become too relaxed about teacher supply.” This news is concerning as teachers are playing such an important role in helping to ensure students are catching up after missing months of school and this could potentially leave them with less support in the classroom in future.

Environmental organisations call for inquiry into ‘vital role of outdoor learning’

Spending time outdoors has always been said to have a positive impact on mental health but now this must become a vital part of Coronavirus recovery plans say organisations including The Wildlife Trusts, The National Youth Agency, the Centre for Sustainable Energy and Friends of the Earth. In a letter to Robert Halfon, the chair of the Education Select Committee, the environmental organisations set out why the recovery period of the coronavirus pandemic is an opportunity to reassess “how we socialise, work and learn”. This is a great opportunity to encourage pupils to spend time together outdoors to try to improve their physical and mental wellbeing after months of being isolated from their friends.

LGBT pupils in Wales 'need better support' from schools

Over the last few decades, LGBT education has taken huge leaps forwards in schools. However, a report released this week urges schools and colleges to give more support to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students. The Estyn report states that LGBT pupils may suffer from higher levels of bullying and isolation affecting their mental health. It makes recommendations to improve education around LGBT communities such as taking action on bullying and diversity training for staff. The report shows that schools still have a long way to go in their delivery and policies on LGBT education.

About the author

Georgia Shiels

Georgia began her career in marketing while racing competitively in motorsport where she then gained her degree in automotive engineering. Georgia’s passion for encouraging young girls into STEM subjects grew from here. She volunteered as a STEM ambassador and she brings her STEM passion alongside many years of marketing and comms experience to her work at Hopscotch.

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