Education recovery a priority for Essex
The first meeting of the new Essex Education Task Force took place recently, marking the start of ambitious plans to address the short- and long-term impact of Covid-19 on children and young people’s education and emotional wellbeing.
The Task Force, which is independently chaired by Roy Blatchford CBE, was first announced at Essex County Council’s (ECC) Full Council meeting in February. It will initially be supported by a £1.5million investment from the county council’s reserves, of which £500,000 will be allocated specifically for children’s mental health.
Roy Blatchford has extensive experience of the education sector, having previously served as one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Schools (HMI) in England, with national responsibilities for school improvement and for the inspection of outstanding schools.
The group also includes members from ECC, Early Years, Primary, Secondary and Special Schools, Further Education and the Voluntary and Youth sectors.*
Their aims are to champion equity, inclusion and excellence for all, building upon what school colleagues have already set in motion for pupils who have been affected by the loss of learning and missed opportunities due to the pandemic.
This includes addressing key areas such as language development, mental health and wellbeing, the loss of extra-curricular activities, the ‘digital divide’, post-16 and post-18 education, training and employment, as well as support for vulnerable children and young people and those with Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities (SEND). Reading will also have a special focus.
In addition, the group will seek to influence and shape national education policy for the benefit of Essex.
Cllr Tony Ball, Essex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education Excellence, Skills and Training, said: “After an incredibly difficult year for children, young people and the education sector across Essex, the first meeting of the Task Force is an important turning point and we are looking ahead to the future with hope and optimism.
“We have always been clear that a high-quality education is the right of every child and young person. Despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, this has not changed. We will continue to support every pupil to thrive and help education colleagues to enable to them to do so.
“We are not only seeking to support the sector on a local level, but also to effect change at a national level and to help develop and shape new ways of working for the benefit of children and young people across Essex.
“I look forward to seeing our ambitious plans evolve into positive outcomes over the coming months and years.”
Roy Blatchford CBE, Independent Chair of the Essex Education Task Force, said: “It was clear in our first meeting that there is a strong and collective desire across education partners in Essex to address and minimise the impact of the pandemic on all children and young people as quickly as possible.
“Our aim is to ensure that no child or young person in Essex is left behind or disadvantaged due to the pandemic and that the opportunities available to them are not limited because of the events of the past year.
“In addition, we want to seize opportunities to capture and promote innovation and best practice across the education system in Essex. We want the county to be at the forefront of shaping education policy and achieving bright futures for all pupils.”
*Members of the Task Force include Roy Blatchford CBE, Chair, Clare Kershaw, ECC's Director of Education, Cllr Tony Ball, Cabinet Member for Education Excellence, Skills and Training, Martin Solder, Voluntary/Youth Sector Jen Grotier, Special Schools, Jo Nice, Early Years, Harriet Phelps-Knight, Primary Schools, Carole Herman, Secondary Schools, Dan Pearson, Further Education Colleges