England’s Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield, will call on the Government to make children a priority after the pandemic, as part of the final speech before she departs the role after six years.
Dame Rachel de Souza, the founding chief executive of the Inspiration academy trust, will take over Ms Longfield’s role.
However, before she leaves, Ms Longfield will ask Prime Minister Boris Johnson to place vulnerable children at the centre of his ‘build back better’ plans, and to introduce a “Covid covenant” of education and wellbeing support across communities as a way of helping children recover post-Covid.
The Children’s Commissioner will also say that Mr Johnson’s plans to “level up” the country will be “just a slogan” if children are not put at the “centre stage”.
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Ms Longfield will add: “It’s impossible to overstate how damaging the last year has been for many children – particularly those who were already disadvantaged.
“‘Building back better’ must mean rethinking our priorities and the way we care for children. We must be honest about the scale of the challenge and face the tough questions about the gaps that we know exist.”
Alongside concern regarding children post-Covid, the Children’s Commissioner is also expected to say that it is a “national scandal” that a fifth of children leave compulsory education without basic qualifications.
‘Protecting vulnerable children has been at the heart of our response to the pandemic’
In response to Ms Longfield’s comments, a Government spokesperson said: “Protecting vulnerable children has been at the heart of our response to the pandemic, driven by our commitment to level up opportunities and outcomes.
“That’s why we have enabled the most vulnerable children to continue attending school in person, while providing laptops, devices and data packages to those learning at home and ensuring the most disadvantaged children are fed and warm.
“We have also driven forward crucial reform in adoption, in the care system, in post-16 education and in mental health support – and our long-term catch up plans and investment of over £1 billion will ensure we make up for lost time in education over the course of this Parliament.”
Addressing Ms Longfield’s time in the role of Children’s Commissioner, the Government spokesperson added that she “has been a tireless advocate for children, and we’re grateful for her dedication and her challenge on areas where we can continue raising the bar for the most vulnerable.”