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£15 billion funding boost needed in England ‘to support education recovery’

Eleanor Busby, PA Education Correspondent
·6 min read

A multi-year education recovery package of up to £15 billion is required in England to ensure children catch up on missed learning, a report suggests.

Without significant policy interventions and funding, there could be severe consequences for young people’s education, earnings and life chances, according to the Education Policy Institute (EPI) think tank.

The Government should put in place a three-year funding package of £10 billion to £15 billion to enable activities, interventions and plans to begin from September this year, the preliminary analysis suggests.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already made £1.7 billion of catch-up funding available in England to help children who have faced disruption from school and college closures due to Covid-19.

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As part of the recovery package, this year summer schools will be introduced for pupils who need it the most, while tutoring schemes will be expanded.

But the EPI analysis concludes that the Government’s current plans for pupils “need to be much larger to have a real chance of catching up on lost learning”.

It says a multi-year funding package of up to £15 billion is needed in England to meet the Prime Minister’s pledge to make up the lost learning seen by pupils due to the pandemic.

The preliminary research – which is based on initial economic modelling of the impact of school closures – also suggests that £1 billion to £1.5 billion of catch-up funding will be required to support pupils in Scotland, £600 million to £900 million in Wales and £350 million to £500 million in Northern Ireland.

A recent report on learning loss, carried out by EPI and Renaissance Learning for the Department for Education (DfE), found that some pupils in England have lost more than two months’ worth of learning,

Local elections
Boris Johnson has made £1.7 billion of catch-up funding available in England to help children whose education has been disrupted by the pandemic (Jacob King/PA)

Based on an estimated range of learning loss, the new analysis from the think tank suggests that this would result in total lost lifetime earnings for pupils of between 1% and 3.4%.

If the Government fails to take significant action, pupils could lose future income of between £8,000 and £50,000 – equating to a total long-run cost between £60 billion and £420 billion across the eight million pupils in England, the report adds.

It says: “The emerging evidence on lost learning paints a worrying picture which the Government cannot afford to ignore. Without massive policy interventions now, we could all be poorer than we hoped in the future, particularly today’s young people.”

The Government’s education recovery commissioner, Sir Kevan Collins, is currently considering long-term proposals to address the impact of Covid-19 on children.

“At the heart of the Government’s support for schools should be a focus on what matters most – teacher quality,” the report says.

Luke Sibieta, research fellow at EPI, said: “Pupils have faced exceptional challenges over the last year, with many already months behind in their educational progress.

“If not properly addressed, our analysis shows this could result in reduced lifetime earnings of £8,000 to £50,000 per child, amounting to total losses of £60 billion to £420 billion for the country.

“This is not a forecast of inevitable doom and gloom for today’s children, but a call to action for the adults and policymakers of today.”

Natalie Perera, chief executive of EPI, said: “Getting the long-term education recovery package right is a critical moment for our country as we look to recover and rebuild from the worst of the pandemic.

Education Select Committee
Sir Kevan Collins has received support from the ASCL for his work as education recovery commissioner (UK Parliament/PA)

“This analysis shows that if the Prime Minister is to meet his key pledge to make good the learning losses seen by pupils, an ambitious, multi-year funding package of £10 billion to £15 billion is required.

“A final settlement which fails to meet this level would not only let down millions of young people, but could also spell serious consequences for the future economy.”

The think tank is calling on the Government to put into action its plans for education recovery “as soon as possible” – and “well before the Autumn Spending Review”.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “Before the Treasury throws up its hands in horror at these sums of money, let’s just remember that this would be spread across some 8.2 million pupils over three years.

“A £15 billion investment works out at about £610 per pupil per year – which is hardly an excessive ask given the scale of disruption caused by the pandemic.

“We are very supportive of the work of Sir Kevan Collins as education recovery commissioner and we look forward to seeing his recommendations in due course, but this has to be backed up with significant Government funding.”

He added that the challenge ahead is not just about recovery, but also about addressing the “long-standing” gap in educational attainment between disadvantaged children and their peers.

Mr Barton said: “This inequality has gone on for far too long, and significant strategic investment in early years, schools, and post-16 education is vital if the Prime Minister is serious about living up to his levelling up rhetoric.”

Kate Green, Labour’s shadow education secretary, said: “Boris Johnson has betrayed children by overpromising and under-delivering on catch-up.

“After a decade of neglect of children’s learning, with rising class sizes and increasing child poverty, the Conservatives’ catch-up funding amounts to a measly 43p per child a day.

“Their inadequate, poorly targeted tutoring programme is leaving thousands without support and they have no plan for children’s wellbeing despite having had months away from their friends.”

A Government spokesperson said: “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 specifically oversee this work.

“As part of this, we have already invested £1.7 billion in ambitious catch-up activity, including high-quality tutoring and summer school provision.

“The majority of the funding is targeted towards those most in need, while giving schools the flexibility of funding to use as they believe best to support their pupils.”