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Children North East is working with Newcastle University on the VOICES project, gathering the viewpoints of children and young people on the impact of Covid-19 on their lives.

The VOICES team are excited to launch our first evidence report ‘Covid disruption and the resource divide: interim evidence from children and young people in the North East’ with both the full and summary versions of the report available.

Image with sign reading 'What is your story?'

What’s in this report? 

This interim report presents evidence from 180 children and young people (age 5-18) in the North East, as we work to our target of talking with 1,000 children and young people across the North East. Through focus groups and other consultation methods, we found out about what children and young people’s lives are like now, to share this evidence and help organisational leaders bring about change for the better.

Understanding young people’s needs have always been a knowledge gap for policy makers, particularly for children living in poverty, and has been made worse by Covid-19. Our headline findings make clear calls to action, and we also ask policymakers to take note of the more long term, complex, and emergent issues affecting young people.

Our three priorities for action from this first phase report are:

  • confidence in using transport 
  • support from employers about employment and futures 
  • a focus on social interaction (and play) in catch-up or opportunities offered to children and young people 

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What happens next?

This first interim report shares evidence from the first phase of VOICES up to January 2021. We are working with organisational leaders and policymakers to support change based on young people’s experiences and needs and our next reports will focus on findings from our ongoing North East regionwide consultation.

We are keen for more organisations to get involved in VOICES – please contact luke.bramhall@children-ne.org.uk or lydia.wysocki@ncl.ac.uk to find out more.

VOICES is a joint research project by Children North East and Newcastle University. This research is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), as part of UK Research and Innovation’s rapid response to Covid-19.

 

An ‘administrative’ change to the way in which pupil premium funding is allocated to schools will leave schools in the region short between £5.16 million and £7.26 million in the coming financial year.

The calculation for pupil premium has been changed by the government so that it will now be based on the number of pupils who were eligible for free school meals (FSM) in October 2020, rather than January 2021, as has previously been the case. Analysis of newly-available data suggests there was an increase of 5,400 pupils in receipt of FSM across the North East between the school census of October 2020 and that of January 2021, but schools won’t receive pupil premium funding for these students.

Regional organisations Children North East, Schools North East and the North East Child Poverty Commission have joined forces to write a letter to the Education Secretary to urge him to reverse this decision to change the way in which pupil premium funding is calculated, and to base the pupil premium calculation on the January 2021 census. The Department for Education has repeatedly committed to supporting our schools and ‘to do everything possible to ensure that no child, whatever their background, falls behind as a result of coronavirus.’ However, this change will seriously impact the ability of schools to support a growing number of disadvantaged students in the coming year.

Schools North East Director, Chris Zarraga said:

In a year where many families have faced difficulties with furlough and widespread redundancies, the number of students eligible for pupil premium has increased. However, this decision from the government means schools won’t receive the money they need to properly support those students, and existing high levels of deprivation and a wider gap in learning loss means that schools in our region are likely to be hit even harder than elsewhere. With school budgets already suffering due to continuing outgoing costs of Covid safety measures, this will have a serious detrimental impact on our students who have already suffered significant disruption over the last year.

Director of the North East Child Poverty Commission, Amanda Bailey said:

We all know the Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on people’s lives and livelihoods and these new figures illustrate quite how stark that economic impact has been for thousands of families across our region, given how stringent the free school meal threshold currently is. It’s not right that some of the most disadvantaged pupils in the North East could lose the additional support they are entitled to as a result of this change, not least after the enormous upheaval they have faced to their education and wider lives over the last twelve months. Providing additional funding with one hand, whilst taking it away with the other totally undermines the Government’s pledge to support students through this pandemic.

Children North East have seen first-hand the challenges many schools and their pupils are experiencing across the region. Some schools Children North East have worked with through their Poverty Proofing the School Day programme have implemented various initiatives as a result of the pupil premium funding. Headteacher of Ridgeway Primary Academy, Alex Golden shared:

Pupil premium allows us to make sure that we can meet children’s needs and make sure that they are not disadvantaged by their out of school experiences.

Assistant Principal at Kenton School, Sarah Price also shared:

In order to support our pupils who are in receipt of the pupil premium we have delivered weekly food parcels to families, supported with utility bills so that they didn’t go cold over the winter, provided access to the internet in order to ensure pupils were able to keep up with their home learning and funded transport to allow vulnerable pupils to attend during the closure.

The joint letter from Children North East, Schools North East and the North East Child Poverty Commission to the Education Secretary can be read here.

Children North East has also prepared a briefing on pupil premium, including further information on what it is, eligibility criteria, how it’s used and case studies from Jarrow School and Kenton School on how this pupil premium is used. You can read or download the briefing here.

School Research and Delivery Practitioner, Gwen Dalziel, shares details of a new online, interactive storytelling game, offering a fun and engaging way to support children’s mental health:

I’ve been thinking a lot about how in Covid times we all seem to be in a constant state of doing at least two things at a time.

We are expected to be experts at our job and now IT consultants or at least IT competent!  Many of us have had a steep learning curve to adapt the way we work and harness technology in a more widespread way to be able to carry on.  As parents, we have faced the dual role of teacher and parent while probably failing miserably to be good enough company so our little ones don’t miss their friends too much. Schools have squared up to unprecedented demands to offer learning in-person and online while desperately trying to support their communities through change, loss and tough times.

At the moment I’m involved in helping schools to support the mental health and emotional wellbeing of their pupils. We at Children North East have joined forces with our esteemed colleagues at Mortal Fools to offer schools a wonderful resource – the MELVA game.

Melva game
MELVA is an interactive digital resource for KS2 children.  The resource consists of a game for electronic media interspersed with activities for the classroom or at home. Not only is it great fun but it does a serious job too. It allows schools to fulfil their obligations for supporting mental health and relationship education. This amazing tool supports busy school staff to ensure the continuation of this compulsory aspect of the curriculum, while also offering an opportunity for parents to engage in key wellbeing discussions.

The best part is that the MELVA game is a great multitasker. If we all have to do more than one thing at once, well then why shouldn’t our resources. A great game that teachers and parents can do together, and it provides space for these relationships to flourish. It adapts to all students and different circumstances; it is suitable for use in the classroom when school communities can be together and remotely, accessed for home learning or in periods of self-isolation. Or a blended mixture of both!

Multitasking can be hard; while MELVA as a tool develops coping strategies for the young, it also reminds us to look after ourselves and our worries. We can tell ourselves sometimes the pressure of doing two things at a time can be good bringing creative and efficient development, but we need to look after our well-being too. Engaging with a fun resource like Melva means we can enable young people to support their own well-being alongside, if you use it with young people, being reminded of the importance of looking after our own.

Any schools interested in accessing the MELVA game please contact Gwen Dalziel at gwen.dalziel@children-ne.org.uk | 07936 369405. You can also find out more in the MELVA leaflet.

Children North East are national founders and leaders of the Poverty Proofing initiative, and over the past nine years we have worked with schools and organisations to identify and overcome the barriers that children and young people from families with less financial resources face.

The team running this nationally recognised programme have over the past year been expanding this important work in to cultural organisations, and we’re delighted to share Children North East are currently working in partnership with BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead to Poverty Proof their organisation.

We are working with BALTIC to identify and remove any barriers for visitors, and to ensure that household income does not impact on people’s ability to visit and get involved with the activities that BALTIC runs. Overall, our aim is to help BALTIC ensure that they are accessible to citizens from all socioeconomic backgrounds.

As part of this process we are keen to hear what people think of BALTIC, and we would appreciate it if you could complete the brief survey below to share your thoughts.

Complete the survey

If you know anyone who might also be interested in completing the survey, please feel free to share it with them, as we’d love this to get as many responses as possible.

Georgina Burt, School Research and Delivery Practitioner at Children North East, said:

At a time when many families are facing difficult financial circumstances access to arts, culture and leisure is really important. As an organisation BALTIC are really interested in finding out what people think and what they could do differently and we’re excited to be embarking on the next phase of our Poverty Proofing work. We will be working with BALTIC to make sure that there aren’t any barriers for individuals and families to visit and get involved in the activities that BALTIC runs.

 

A lot of people are giving themselves a really hard time right now:
“Why am I not coping better?”
“I have a lot to be grateful for, I shouldn’t be feeling low”
“I should be doing something productive”
“People have it much worse than me”

Right now you are experiencing a change in life that came suddenly and unexpectedly. Like all change this brings loss – loss of connection, freedom and even safety- the list goes on.

We are grieving for what we have lost.

Even if there are positive changes, we should not ignore the losses which have brought pain and struggle. Can you imagine saying any of the things above to someone who was grieving the loss of a loved one? Then why say it to yourself?

Even with the knowledge that this will pass eventually, it can be exhausting.

“And yet somehow, you marvellous human being, you have found a way to carry on through all of it.”

 

So keep going whatever way you can.

Instead of telling yourself off for not being able to meet unrealistic goals, praise yourself for how much you have adapted too. Give your self breaks, rest and do what you need to to feel connected to others.

DO NOT belittle yourself.

You are doing an incredible job and we ALL need kindness right now.

Whilst Christmas is a time of celebration for so many, for a number of our beneficiaries it can be a very difficult time of year, which will be amplified even further this year due to ​the hugely detrimental impact Covid is having on those in need in the region.

New for 2020​, Children North East is applying to take part in the Big Give Christmas Challenge, the UK’s biggest online match funding campaign, to hopefully raise vital funds for our Hope for Christmas appeal.

As part of our application, we need businesses to make a promise of funding, called ‘Pledges’, which will be used as match funds to double online donations made to our charity during the campaign.  Your commitment of funding might also help us to secure additional match funds via a Champion (sourced by the Big Give).

We are aiming to raise a total of £1,000 in pledges to take part in the Christmas Challenge.  Would you consider making a pledge to help us reach our target?

If you would be willing to make a pledge to us, you can do so by clicking the pledge button below by the deadline of 5pm, Friday 4 September.

Make your pledge!

If you would be interested in getting involved in our Christmas Appeal in other ways outside of the Big Give, we’d love to discuss this with you.  We have a number of ideas we’ll be sharing as we get closer to the festive season and would love your involvement in whichever way would work best for you.