Covid has caused devastation in many ways. Not only have 100,000 of our fellow citizens lost their lives, but frontline key workers have existed under long term stress, children and young people’s education has been unarguably disrupted and people have fallen into severe hardship with some losing their livelihoods.
The NHS’s efficient rollout of the vaccines is providing us all with the glimmer of hope, and light at the end of the tunnel, that we all needed through these long, dark evenings.
But the question is, what will we find at the other end?
For pupils who have missed out on sitting their GCSEs, A levels and BTECs, who have started college but are yet to meet a tutor in person or others in their class, or who have been unable to start their apprenticeship an urgent solution is needed to ensure that they are not disadvantaged in the years to come when compared against others from pre-Covid years.
While much has been said about the ludicrous one day return for primary schools, it seems little thought has been given to assessing the range of impacts young people may have experienced or are still experiencing. There has been no public debate on the plan for levelling up any social, mental health, educational and training deficits those pupils and students may have experienced.
As lockdown has dragged on, and the economic outlook has become increasingly downbeat, young people are feeling less optimistic about their futures and opportunities than they have in a generation. And you can’t blame them, since May last year the number of people who have had to turn to the Universal Credit system in the Grimsby area has shot up by 50%, going from 8,233 to 12,272, approximately 1 in 4 of all working age people. A welcome safety net yes, but it doesn’t offer much to aspire to.
We have a duty to provide holistic reassurance that they will be supported to identify potential career paths, that qualifications will hold equal value in the eyes of employers, in areas where young people have traditionally experienced challenges in finding routes to employment that efforts are redoubled to provide tailored in person guidance, active links are established with employers beyond an impersonal jobs fair, easy routes back into education are available – without unexpected financial penalties or hidden costs.
There are so many ways that we could demonstrate to our children and grandchildren that we value them and are prepared to invest in them for all of our futures. There is no time to waste.