Parent-led group Redbridge For Education was established to help support local parents and to address a number of issues, including digital exclusion, says Wanstead resident and co-founder Vicky Taylor
In March last year, when schools closed, they were put in the most unenviable of positions. With guidelines changing multiple times a day and head teachers having to implement these changes, teachers and other school staff did the best they could to keep our children as safe as possible whilst trying not to put themselves in danger. They went above and beyond for our children and our community.
But where teachers and school staff have their unions to protect them and provide advice and support, where could parents turn? Talking to other parents can be useful, while asking already overburdened schools felt a step too far. Once the novelty of being contained with our nearest and dearest had waned, there was a real feeling of uncertainty starting to emerge.
Through my work with other educationalists and unions, I found I was in a similar situation to other parents. We all had the feeling that something needs to be done to help, to make everything easier and okay, but how and what? We discovered as a group that we all had very different situations and very different concerns, but all of them just as valid and all of them needing addressing. That was how Redbridge For Education came together. We wanted to support local parents during this deeply worrying time.
We set up on social media and organised a few public meetings online with the aim of sharing experiences and information and finding out what the biggest issues were that should be addressed. We had a fantastic turnout and excellent speakers and we found there were three core issues. One was the safety of children in school, another was food poverty and the third was digital exclusion. There were, of course, many more, but these were by far the biggest, and they remain a concern now.
Our laptop and devices campaign kick-started when we were contacted by a parent who told us their child’s school had undertaken no online learning due to the large number of children either without a device or access to the internet. We realised that this was the story in many schools locally and nationally and knew it was time to take real action.
Nearly one year on from the first lockdown, over 30,000 children in Redbridge live in poverty and it is estimated that at least 7,000 have had no access to education since March 2020.
Our belief is that every child in the UK has the right of equal access to education. We have a mountain ahead to climb, but our children are our future and we can’t let them down.