£1.7bn is not enough. ‘Significant investment’ is crucial to ensure Prime Minister’s promise that ‘no child is left behind’ via the school catch-up plan.
The Education Policy Institute says the government will need to spend £13.5bn in England to bridge gaps in pupils’ lost learning, particularly in reading and maths.
The Education Policy Institute (EPI) report urges the government to extend the school day and put forward a “significant investment” (especially for poor pupils) beyond the current £1.7bn which will only cover a short-term school catch up plan. The report insists this is the only way to deliver on the prime minister’s promise that “no child is left behind”.
David Laws, executive chairman of the Education Policy Institute said: “Over the last year, children have fallen badly behind in their learning, and those who are disadvantaged have suffered most acutely.
“We have seen the worst disruption to education in our country since the second world war.
“If the pandemic is not to scar this generation of young people, the prime minister needs to put in place an ambitious education recovery plan, based on sound evidence and sufficient funding.”
School Catch-up Plan
The report suggested that the recovery plan should include mental health support, extended school days, summer programmes for social and academic activities, additional pupil premium funding, incentives for teachers to work in “challenging areas” and an option for pupils to retake the year.
The catch up programme must be ambitious and long term – running over a number of years, to assist pupils who have lost months of education due to school closures. The report calculated the total cost of helping pupils catch up is £13.5bn over three years.
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said the government’s response to the recommendations is not good enough.
He said: “The government must prioritise education in the forthcoming Spending Review so that schools can increase the number of properly qualified teachers on staff, and bring down our historically high class-sizes. The solution to Covid cannot be yet more austerity.”
The EPI suggests that extra support should be continually provided for disadvantaged pupils. The research shows that poorer pupils were already 18 months of learning behind their more affluent peers by the time they sat their GCSEs long before the onset of Covid. The pandemic caused the gap to widen.
The EPI recommends that the immediate focus should be on plugging the gap on lost learning from autumn 2020 to date. Research showed that schools with high rates of free school meal eligibility had lost 2.2 months in comparison to schools with low rates, which lost only 1.5 months.
This focus on academic progress should be reinforced by greater investment in addressing child poverty and children’s mental health services.
Chief executive of the EPI, Natalie Perera, chief said: “We are calling on the government to implement a series of effective, evidence-based policies from this September to support children and young people – not only with their learning, but with their well-being and mental health too.”
When asked about the long term catch up plan and need for more money a government spokesman responded: “We are working with parents, teachers and schools to develop a long-term plan to make sure all pupils have the chance to recover from the impact of the pandemic as quickly and comprehensively as possible – and we have appointed Sir Kevan Collins as education recovery commissioner to advise on this work.”
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