Unions provide stationery packs to Barking, Dagenham and Havering children
- Credit: Brian Lawless/PA
The Barking, Dagenham and Havering Trades Union Council (BDHTUC) has agreed to buy and deliver stationery packs to schoolchildren across the two boroughs.
BDHTUC secretary Susan Aitouaziz calls the initiative "a massive commitment from the unions in the name of social solidarity".
With each pack costing £3, Susan is urging local unions to help reach an initial target of £1,800 (for the first 600 packs).
The first donation of £250 has already been made by a Retired Members' branch of Unite, whose treasurer Tony Briscoe is also the BDHTUC president.
He and his fellow officers - some of whom are in their eighties and nineties - are firmly behind this gesture.
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He said: "They agree that it is vital to make sure the next generation is educated to the best possible standard. It looks like schools could be closed at least until Easter, so most children are being taught over the internet.
"It is difficult enough for families to make ends meet. Even if their children have adequate internet access, the parents cannot always afford the extra equipment needed to do their home studies, such as pens, pencils, rulers etc."
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Each pack includes a zip wallet, exercise book, scrapbook, pencil, pen, rubber, ruler, plastic sharpener, colouring pencils and glue stick. It's hoped that deliveries can start early next month, with Susan confirming the first 100 packs have already been ordered.
Headteachers are being contacted to identify the pupils most in need.
Tony's branch donation will cover more than 80 packs, and while it was the first to come in, the BDHTUC is edging closer to that £1,800 target.
Similar schemes are being led by the National Education Union (NEU) in its districts, with Susan of the view that educational inequality is driving the need: "Those inequalities, and how they affect our children, are more obvious than ever before."
She - as a teacher at Dagenham's Hunters Hall Primary School for 30 years - sees this first hand.
Welcoming contributions from branches and individuals, Susan advises that donations can be sent to the Coop Bank A/C No. 59020028 Sort Code No. 089004 Ref: HCL/union branch.
For further information on the campaign, or on cheque donations, contact BDHTUC@hotmail.com.