Our most disadvantaged children face a barrage of adversity, now made worse by the pandemic. But the untapped potential is huge, and the opportunity to release it is significant.
Children are disengaging from school at frightening pace: in autumn 2020, the number of pupils who were severely absent soared by 54.7 per cent year-on-year. Disadvantaged pupils already faced an 18-month GCSE attainment gap before Covid, which will now grow. Mental health problems are spiralling – the rate of probable disorders among children rose from 1 in 9 in 2017 to 1 in 6 in 2020. One in five young people is obese by age 17, a problem that is particularly acute for disadvantaged individuals. Youth crime is ripping through our communities and as gangs continue to exploit generation Covid, no doubt more will join the roster of 27,000 children who currently self-identify as gang members.
The Government needs a social response to the “levelling up” narrative, alongside the economic one, and this must focus on support for children and families from the first days of their lives. The long-term answer to social problems lies in early help and prevention rather than significant later interventions.
To that end the CSJ is proposing four interventions to the Comprehensive Spending Review, each focused on helping children reach their full potential.