Brexit has hidden our children’s plight by ‘dominating political agenda’

Brexit has dominated the political agenda for years now.

The run-up to the referendum, the referendum, the aftermath – all have sucked the oxygen out of politics.

This week’s ruling to extend the Brexit deadline until Halloween has not solved the problem. But what it has done is allow other neglected issues some time in the limelight.

That’s why today’s news about schools is so important. Because as all our collective interest and effort has been focussed on Brexit, some terrible things have been allowed to happen.

Only one in six new-built schools has a sprinkler system installed.

That’s a statistic that should shock us all.

It was a government pledge to make things safer – but one they have ignored.

The Grenfell tragedy should have taught us all about the importance of proper fire safety.

In the same week, we learned in a survey carried out by the National Education Union that 91 per cent of teachers believe poverty is a factor in pupil’s learning.

Some of the responses in the survey are horrifying – parents struggling to make ends meet, high rents, homelessness and insecurity.

We have stories of children going to school who have not eaten for days. Some arrive shivering in thin coats, leaking shoes, no socks.

Food banks, once rare, are becoming a way of life for some. This is the shame of one of the richest countries in the world.

Last year, the number of children living in absolute poverty increased by 200,000.

just so we’re clear, absolute poverty means living below the basic living standard of food, shelter, housing. Millions more live in relative poverty – they can manage, but barely.

Last year, 70 per cent of children living in poverty were in working families.

This is what we need to be talking about.

With all the squabbling and bitterness dividing us over Brexit, these children are being forgotten. The sooner we come together – whichever way Brexit falls – the sooner we can start to help them.

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