Government urged to fund extra year of study for college leavers to tackle impact of Covid

MPs and peers say move would support those affected by digital poverty or caring responsibilities

Zoe Tidman
Thursday 20 May 2021 17:00
MPs and peers have written to the education secretary to put forward proposals on college education
MPs and peers have written to the education secretary to put forward proposals on college education

The government has been urged to fund an extra year of study for college students who need it in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

A cross-party group of MPs and peers have put forward suggestions to the education secretary on how to support colleges and its pupils affected by Covid-19.

In a letter to Gavin Williamson, the group — which includes Tory MP Peter Aldous and Labour peer Lord Blunkett — said experts told them “lost learning will have affected every learner to some extent, despite the speed of colleges shift to online”.

It comes after most pupils spent periods of time learning at home during the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns, while self-isolation rules have also kept pupils at home.

A recent report by the Association of Colleges, cited in the MPs’ letter, said more than three quarters of 16- to 18-years olds were performing below normal expectations and estimated to be between one to four months behind.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Further Education and Lifelong Learning called for the government to fully fund an additional year of study for students leaving college who need it.

“This would be through a simple, flexible fund, which allows colleges to design programmes lasting between six months to one year to meet needs and outcomes, with a bursary to support some of the most disadvantaged learners to participate,’ the group of five MPs and peers said.

“We ask for this extra year of funded study to ensure that students who have been most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and its related issues, such as digital poverty or caring responsibilities, have the vital skills they need to progress into further education or the labour market.”

It comes after a think-tank estimated the government needed to invest around £13.5bn to help reverse damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic on pupils.

Among other suggestions, the Education Policy Institute said the government should introduce a new right for pupils to repeat a year of education.

In their letter to Mr Williamson, the MPs and peers also urged for colleges to receive targeted support for the most disadvantaged pupils similar to the pupil premium grant for schools.

The Department for Education (DfE) has been approached for comment.

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