‘My heart breaks to hear about kids in Britain using toilet paper to write on’

‘My heart breaks to hear about kids in Britain using toilet paper to write on’

Ask anyone in my family what they remember about me as a child, I can guarantee they will almost all say I annoyed everyone with my non stop questions.

But they’re just as likely to say “she always had a pen in her hand”.

Like many families, we didn’t have much materially, but I did have basics such as paper, pencils and colouring pens and books.

And fewer things gave me more pleasure as a child than writing and colouring in. It is probably why I spend most of my time writing as an adult.

Fast forward to today, and my own five-year-old, once I wrestle a gadget off him, loves colouring and drawing for hours.

In fact I need a constant supply of paper to stop him having a tantrum and ripping pages out of my work notebook. But it’s been a lifesaver during lockdown.

So I know how vital it is for children to have access to basic equipment – especially children who are too young to learn on computers or who aren’t mature enough to appreciate tech boundaries.

But I also know that when you have a kid who loves drawing and being creative, it can get pretty expensive, and this can be a huge burden for families already struggling financially.

Which is why the Help a Child to Learn campaign launched by the National Education Union (NEU) and the Mirror is so important.

Nothing good has come of the coronavirus pandemic, but what it has undoubtedly done is shine a spotlight on the chronic disparity between rich and poor children.

As an NEU survey found 95% of members were teaching students with no access to learning resources at home, while 81% said struggling families were asking for extra support from schools for things like pens and paper.

While it’s great that we’re finally talking about broadband and tech poverty, and issues raised by Marcus Rashford raised food poverty, it’s vital that we don’t lose sight of the other ways disadvantaged children are being impacted by the pandemic.

It’s heartbreaking to hear about kids in Britain using toilet paper or cardboard to write on in lieu of everyday basics.

Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield has already warned of the damaging effects the pandemic could have on the life chances of some of the poorest children.

And this is why Help a Child to Learn is a vital campaign we can and should all support.

Being tech literate is vital, but so are old fashioned things like actually being able to write with pen and paper.

If children don’t have even those basic skills, learnt at a young age, and if we don’t nurture their creativity and their self expression we could be doing irrevocable harm to their futures.

Something for which we could all pay the price for in years to come.