Government’s £1.4bn education catch-up package branded 'inadequate'

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

The government’s own education recovery tsar is among critics of the Department for Education’s new £1.4bn catch-up plan.

Organisations supporting vulnerable children have described the package as "disappointing". Picture: Adobe Stock
Organisations supporting vulnerable children have described the package as "disappointing". Picture: Adobe Stock

The funding announced today (2 June) by government has been branded “inadequate” by organisations supporting disadvantaged young people.

Education recovery commissioner Kevan Collins has also raised concerns over the plans saying more funding “will be needed to meet the scale of the challenge”.

Plans include a £1bn funding boost to support six million 15-hour tuition courses for disadvantaged children as well as an expansion of the 16-19 tuition fund, targeting key subjects such as maths and English, the DfE has said.

A further £400m will be used to improve training and support for early years practitioners and teachers as well as giving some year 13 pupils the opportunity to repeat the year.

This includes £153m allocated for evidence-based professional development for early years practitioners, including a focus on key areas such as speech and language development for under-fives.

A further £253m will fund a “significant overhaul” of existing teacher training and development for 500,000 school teachers, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson added.

The announcement comes days after The Times reported that a “leaked” presentation by Collins suggested he had initially requested £15bn of catch-up funding from the Treasury.

Responding to today’s announcement, Collins said: “Supporting every child to get back on track will require a sustained and comprehensive programme of support.

“The investments in teaching quality and tutoring announced today offer evidence-based support to a significant number of our children and teachers. But more will be needed to meet the scale of the challenge.”

The Times reported that plans included in Collins’ £15bn bid suggested extending the school day by as much as 30 minutes.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Williamson said this had “not been ruled out” despite the dramatic drop in requested funding. 

The reported sum of £15bn echoes previous research from the Education Policy Institute (EPI), which found that a multi-year investment of between £10bn and £15bn is required to meet the Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s pledge to make up for the lost learning seen by pupils as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Organisations supporting disadvantaged children, education researchers and teaching unions have described the government’s announcement as “inadequate” and “disappointing”.

David Laws, executive chairman of the EPI, said the package “does not remotely match the scale of lost learning and is unlikely to be enough to support children to catch up.”

"It appears that the government's own education recovery commissioner recommended a package of policies that would have delivered ten times the financial support unveiled today - £15bn, instead of the £1.4bn announced. 

"It is unclear why the government has chosen to ignore the evidence of how much it would cost to recover lost learning, but there must now be a real concern that learning loss will not be recovered and that the most disadvantaged pupils will fall permanently behind the rest,” he said.

Jon Andrews, head of analysis at the EPI branded the proposals “an inadequate response to the challenge the country is facing with young people’s education, wellbeing, and mental health.”

Dr Jo Casebourne, chief executive of the Early Intervention Foundation, added: “Research is clear time and time again that good mental health is essential to pupils’ ability to learn effectively. That’s why any school catch-up has to be done hand in hand with additional support for mental health, which for many young people has worsened over the course of the pandemic. If this plan is to work, we must also take action to help schools to provide high-quality mental health support.”

Sir Peter Lampl, founder and executive chair of the Sutton Trust and chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation, added: “The proposed funding is only a fraction of what is required. Low-income students who have already been most heavily impacted by Covid-19 will be disadvantaged even more and overall standards, which have fallen dramatically, will be very slow to recover.

“Sir Kevan Collins is right that much more will be needed if we are to mitigate the long-term impact of the pandemic.”

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