Corrosive effects of child poverty could scupper policy programme set out in Queen’s Speech

NCB Statement on Queen’s Speech at state opening of Parliament

The government says its reforms to education “will help every child fulfil their potential wherever they live”, yet poverty and discrimination will scupper these ambitions, as it will for many other policies included in the Queen’s Speech.

This matters for children in particular.

From levelling-up to education, the programme of legislation announced today could have a positive effect on children’s lives for years ahead. But to truly change children’s outcomes for the better, the government plans to remedy the corrosive cost-of-living crisis, that is sweeping growing numbers of children into poverty, must go further. Rising hunger, homelessness, and families in distress is not the context in which levelling-up can succeed.

As well as dealing with the immediate crisis in children’s living standards, the government must strengthen the measures outlined today and address the structural barriers and discrimination that are at the heart of our nation’s inequalities. This includes the undeniable impact of poverty and inequality on educational outcomes, mental health and the risk of abuse and neglect.

This is particularly true of the Schools Bill.

For decades, we have known that disadvantaged children do not do as well as others in school. If we fail to address this then the Schools Bill will fall at the first hurdle, despite it including important measures.

The National Children’s Bureau welcomes the Bill’s focus on improving standards, but this must come with measures to create a more inclusive offer for disabled children and those with special educational needs, as promised by the SEND green paper.

NCB has long campaigned for the government to get to grips with the many thousands of children outside formal education because they are either home educated or classed as missing education. The Bill must establish a clear framework for understanding whether children are getting their right to a suitable education, but also introduce measures to protect the welfare of those who simply drop off the school roll altogether and disappear from sight.

The plans in the Schools Bill have much potential, but only if we make sure that poverty doesn’t prevent children from arriving at school ready to learn.

If every child is to benefit from the legislation announced today, ending the cost-of-living crisis must be a priority.