By Cathy Prior, Social Impact Programme Manager – Provident Financial
Whilst periods of lockdown and local restriction tiers are something we have all become accustomed to for almost a year, the closure of our school gates has been one of the the most painful consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic , particularly for those students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Clearly, it is right to close our schools in order to protect the NHS and reduce the spread of the virus, however it leaves some children and families in a difficult position to home-educate, with schools again switching to online learning.
The education partners we support have worked hard during these difficult times to ensure disadvantaged students and vulnerable families get the help they need.
National Literacy Trust
During the first lockdown, the National Literacy Trust were able to support over 300,000 children and young people with printed writing materials and books and over 500,000 with access to high quality digital literacy resources. Here at Provident, we were able to print and deliver resource packs to local foodbanks who then provided copies to digitally excluded families .
This need has continued with each lockdown. We know that 1 in 11 children won’t have a book at home. Many families still can’t access online learning; 30% of low income households have bad or no broadband connection. Alongside this, it’s now well understood that lockdown impacts negatively on wellbeing, with the third lockdown expected to be particularly hard.
To support literacy and wellbeing in disadvantaged communities during this lockdown, the charity continues to focus on three key areas:
- Delivering high quality programme content for teachers through literacytrust.org.uk
- Providing reading resources and activities for parents through wordsforlife.org.uk.
- Giving digitally excluded children and young people printed resources to support their learning, distributed through their Hubs (including Bradford) and partnerships.
Once again, we’ll be helping with the printing of packs to reach as many local Bradford families as possible. In addition, we’re working with the charity to find ways to support young people virtually through the Words for Work programme which provides them with the communication skills they’ll need for the workplace.
Social Mobility Business Partnership (SMBP)
During the summer some of our colleagues played virtual hosts to young Year 11 students in Bradford as part of a Work Insights Week organised by SMBP.
SMBP is a charity which provides an innovative programme bringing together large corporate organisations and professional sports clubs to remove barriers, develop skills and provide experiences to sixth form and college students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The programme helps build aspirations and inspire them to pursue a career in a profession which they may not have previously considered.
Usually our event is held in our Bradford head office, but due to school closures and lockdown restrictions the event was delivered online. Colleagues volunteered to deliver presentations and workshops on a range of legal and professional topics to inspire the young people who attended.
There are many barriers that can prevent a child from getting to school in a morning. This can be because of personal struggles they may have, or perhaps financial, psychological or other challenges the parent or guardian may have.
School-Home Support is a charity which places practitioners into schools across the country to work with children and families who need support the most. We provide funding for a practitioner at One In A Million Free School and there are several practitioners working in the Holme Wood area of Bradford.
During lockdowns, the charity has seen demand for their services more than quadruple but have continued delivering vital support to families facing issues such as domestic violence and food poverty. They’ve also helped out with delivering digital devices to those without access and we were able to partner them up with National Literacy Trust to provide literacy resource packs to these families.
In the lead-up to Christmas, our colleagues took part in a gift-giving appeal which meant that disadvantaged children across the UK woke up to gifts on Christmas morning.
“As an SHS practitioner working in a secondary school in Bradford, I see how the added pressure of Christmas impacts the families I work with. Christmas isn’t always a happy time for families and even more so this year. I’m working with young people and their families who have had significant bereavements, parents who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, living in poverty and suffering from poor mental health. These gifts will make a big difference and take away some of the pressures parents and carers feel around this time of the year.” SHS practitioner.
We’re continuing to work with all our partners through these difficult times and have been flexible with our funding to allow them to adapt the programmes to work for the less privileged young people and families they support.