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Hackney Councillor Calls for Wellbeing to be Prioritised in Education

hackney

Labour must put health and wellbeing at the “core of its schools policy” says Antoinette Bramble, Hackney council’s cabinet member for education.

Hackney council

Cabinet member for education at Hackney council, Antoinette Bramble, has called for an incoming Labour government to put children’s health and well being at the core of its education policy. At a fringe event at Labour conference, Bramble explained that the benefits of working with NurtureUK, a charity dedicated to promoting a nurturing approach to the education system to help schools boost pupil wellbeing, and improve behaviour, attendance and attainment. Bramble asserted that Hackney council has had a 97% success rate with 300 children in a school with a high risk of exclusion.

“We only talk about exclusions and not missed opportunities; this affects children with special needs. Working with NurtureUK on a six week programme transformed their lives. They came into a school, enjoyed it; teachers said they were part of a community… We have got 8 or 10 schools signed up, so many children in Hackney are benefitting from this programme.”

Bramble also focused on structural inequalities, particularly affecting black children. The councillor said we have to be confident talking about race and how this affects children’s education and outcomes. She also pointed to the importance of safeguarding for black children, mentioning both the risks outside school, but also when they are travelling to and from their home.

Nurturing methods

Arti Sharma, CEO of NurtureUK, said during the panel that NurtureUK works with 4000 schools, and that its primary aim is to reduce exclusion and increase attendance. Children’s absence from schools have been rapidly increasing, exacerbated by the pandemic, with 125,000 children being severely absent.

Director of London’s Violence Reduction Unit Lib Peck said in the panel that nurturing methods were crucial in the “transition period” between primary and secondary education, ensuring this was embedded in the policy. 

Peck called for a London-wide inclusion charter that was framed as positive and inclusive, with the VRU previously holding its first London Education Summit in November last year to develop this inclusion charter that all London boroughs would contribute towards. The end goal of this is an inclusion checklist for teachers they can use to support young people. 

Chair of the Commission on Young Lives, Anne Longfield, said that in a school in Bradford with 14,000 children, 500 children were persistently absent, and of that 200 are severely absent. The crisis has reached levels where some schools can barely keep track of the names of absent kids, she said. “We already had a third of children leaving at sixteen; that’s a disaster for all children and catastrophic for vulnerable children.” 

Bramble concluded that health and wellbeing have to be at the core of a future Labour government’s school policy. “That is the only way we empower young children. We need a government that understands children are the heart of what we do, children are the future, and a progressive Labour government can do this.”

Final thought

Last month, the The Education Committee proposed a range of measures for tackling school absences which included mental health and SEND support/ As the school absences crisis continues, it is crucial that the causes are addressed through child-centred approaches which focus on individual needs.

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