After months now in lockdown, children and young people in Manchester are set to benefit from a summer-long programme of activities to help get them out and about, reconnect with their friends, and to re-build their skills.
The bespoke citywide programme of summer activities for all school-aged children and young people in the city is being put together as a ‘game-changer’ to help combat the effects on young people of living in isolation for the last few months.
The plan is being drawn up by the council in a bid to directly tackle the negative impact that being out of school and away from their friends is known to have had on the city’s 87,000 school aged children and young people. The council is now talking to schools, youth providers and others – including parents and young people themselves – about what is needed, and is also talking to funding agencies, businesses, and other organisations about how to make these plans happen.
As well as missing out on the academic side of school – despite the great job city schools have been doing with virtual learning for their pupils – many children have also missed out on using and developing the many other skills they use every day in school.
Skills such as being physically active, team work, social skills, sharing and collaboration, listening and speaking skills, are all just as important as academic learning, but unfortunately different family circumstances will mean some children have had little chance to further develop these skills during lockdown.
There are also concerns that many children will be anxious about starting school again after the current enforced period of absence means the majority of children will have been away from school and their friends for at least five months by the start of the new academic year.
Children’s individual experiences of the lockdown period too will be very different, and many may have had an extremely difficult time and will need time to talk about their thoughts and feelings. These are all skills which will need to be re-established in order for children to start learning effectively again in September and at the pace required for them to catch up.
The plans being put in place would see some school sites and other venues used across the city for a range of different activities for children from the age of 4 – 16 years of age. Although some school sites will be used, activities will be provided by youth and leisure providers and not by schools themselves.
The council is also looking at ways of addressing holiday hunger for the city’s 28,000 children who are currently eligible for a free school meal, as part of the overall activities package.
Councillor Garry Bridges, Executive Member for Children and Schools, Manchester City Council, said: “There has been no level playing field for anyone during the corona crisis – much less for our children whose background circumstances are all very different.
“We are in no doubt that although all of our families have been affected by the virus in one way or another, the difficulties affecting the poorest and therefore most vulnerable of our families in Manchester will have taken even more of a toll on them.
“We can’t stand by and see their health, well-being, and life chances disappear during the long summer holidays whilst those who can – who have the cash – emerge from lockdown and head straight for the luggage rack, picking up their pre-lockdown lives exactly where they left off.
“We want our summer programme to be a game-changer: to make an immediate and real difference to this generation of children and young people who – through no fault of their own – have had their lives put on hold for the last few months. It’s important that we recognise how difficult this has been for them, and imperative that we act now to reverse the impact it has had.”