Agenda item

Agenda item

Update on impact of COVID-19 on children and families with a focus on family poverty

Report of the Director of Education


This report, one of a series of scrutiny reports, reports on the impact and consequence management of COVID-19 on children and their families. This report has a particular focus on family poverty and the impact of the pandemic on this. The report outlines the work that has been put in place to try to mitigate this particularly in relation to the provision of food.


The Committee received a report of the Director of Education which reported on the impact and consequence management of COVID-19 on children and their families. The report had a particular focus on family poverty and the impact of the pandemic on this. The report outlined the work that had been put in place to try to mitigate this, particularly in relation to the provision of food.


Officers referred to the main points and themes within the report, which included:


  • Responding to COVID-19 cases;
  • School attendance;
  • Family poverty and the impact of the pandemic;
  • Supermarket vouchers for children/young people;
  • Welfare payments; and
  • Holiday activity and food scheme.


Some of the key points and themes that arose from the Committee’s discussions were:


  • Concern that rising infection levels were resulting in increased disruption to children’s education, the challenges this created for head teachers and teachers and what could be done to limit the number of pupils being instructed to self-isolate;
  • Whether any Manchester schools were involved in the trial involving daily testing of close contacts;
  • That when Ofsted undertook inspections it should be made clear to them the disproportionate effect that the pandemic had had on Manchester’s schools and could a breakdown of communities whose attendance had most been affected by COVID-19 be produced to assist schools with this;
  • Families travelling abroad over the summer holidays who could be required to self-isolate on their return to the UK;
  • How were equality, diversity and inclusion being embedded in the revised Family Poverty Strategy; and
  • How the grant funding of £3,827,200 for Holiday Activities and Food was being used.


The Director of Education informed the Committee that two Manchester schools were involved in the trial where pupils who were a close contact of a positive case came into school and had a lateral flow test on site each day.  She reported that all schools were receiving regular updates and had a point of contact within the Schools Quality Assurance Team for support and guidance.  She reported that schools also received support from the Council’s Public Health Team and that her service was working closely with Public Health.  She acknowledged that the number of pupils being required to self-isolate when there was a positive case varied between schools and advised that this was dependent on the size of the bubble, how schools defined a bubble and to what extent contact was recorded, for example, whether a record was made about who pupils had sat with at lunchtime, commenting that many schools had become good at identifying which specific children had had close contact with the pupil who had tested positive.  She reported that the other actions that schools could take were promoting the importance of vaccinations in the community and increasing testing, advising that work was currently taking place around on-site testing in secondary schools and mobile testing units.  In response to a question from the Chair, she advised that colleagues in Bolton had told her that on-site testing in schools had made a big difference in improving the situation there.  She asked Members to encourage people in their wards to give consent for this testing.


The Director of Education agreed with the Member’s comment about Ofsted inspections, stating that schools were being reminded that they could defer their next Ofsted inspection and that many had good grounds for doing so.  She advised that it would be possible to produce data on the impact of COVID-19 on school attendance, broken down by different communities.  In response to a Member’s question, she reported that schools were required to provide remote learning for pupils who were self-isolating but that this did not have to be online learning.  She advised that she expected that the government would issue guidance on how to record absence after the summer holidays due to a requirement to self-isolate after returning from abroad.


The Director of Inclusive Growth advised that the work to respond to the impact of the pandemic had resulted in better intelligence on inequalities between different communities and different parts of the city and that this was being reflected in the delivery of the Family Poverty Strategy and in the delivery of other strategies, for example, economic recovery work.   In response to another Member’s question, she advised that 40 organisations had been involved in the Community Food Partnership and that the Trussell Trust was a valued member of this food response work.


The Head of Youth Strategy and Engagement outlined how the Council was working with partners to use the Holiday Activities and Food funding and match funding to support young people.  She advised that discussions were taking place with businesses about how this work could be sustained into next year, if the funding ended in March 2022.  She noted that the Committee was due to receive a report on this programme of activity at its July meeting.  The Chair advised that it was important that ward-specific information be shared with Ward Councillors through Ward Co-ordination meetings.




To note the report.

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