New catch-up funding is around £50 more per pupil a year and ‘long way off’ what is needed, think-tank says

Education Policy Institute says it is ‘fraction of level of funding required to reverse learning loss seen by pupils’

Zoe Tidman
Wednesday 02 June 2021 15:11
<p>The government has announced an extra funding package to help students catch-up on lost learning</p>

The government has announced an extra funding package to help students catch-up on lost learning

A think-tank has estimated extra funding announced for education recovery works out at around £50 more per pupil every year, which they called “a long way off” what is needed.

Earlier this week, the government announced an additional £1.4bn would go towards helping pupils recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on their education.

The Education Policy Institute (EPI) has said this is “a fraction of the level of funding required to reverse learning loss seen by pupils” since March last year.

The think-tank said their analysis of the new funding package, which spans over three years, amounts to around £50 extra per pupil every year.

Taken together with a £1.7bn package announced earlier this year, the EPI said the government’s overall funding for education recovery works out at a total of around £310 per pupil over three years.

This compares with an equivalent total funding of £1,600 per pupil set aside in the US and £2,500 per pupil in the Netherlands over the same period.

The EPI estimated the level of funding needed to reverse learning losses due to the Covid-19 pandemic is £500 per student a year.

“At £50 per pupil, our analysis shows that today’s funding package is a long way off what is required to remedy the lost learning seen by pupils over the last year,” Jon Andrews, the EPI’s head of analysis, said.

“This was an opportunity for the government to offer significant investment in a range of evidence-based interventions that would help protect against long-run negative impacts to young people’s education and wellbeing. They have decided not to take that opportunity.”

In the new funding package, the majority of the extra cash – £1bn – will go towards expanding tutoring available in schools and colleges, while the rest will go towards allowing some Year 13 students to repeat their final year and staff training and support.

The Department for Education (DfE) said up to 100 million tutoring hours for children and young people across England under the measures.

But Mr Andrews from the EPI said the plans were “an inadequate response to the challenge the country is facing with young people’s education, wellbeing, and mental health”.

The think-tank said last month a total of around £13.5bn is needed to help reverse damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic on pupils.

During interviews with broadcasters on Wednesday, Gavin Williamson sidestepped questions about reports of a row with the Treasury over the new funding package, but did concede that “there will be more that is required”.

Speaking about the latest batch of funding, Mr Williamson also said it was “only part of a process” but defended the money on offer, telling BBC’s Today programme: “Maybe this is being a Yorkshireman, but I always thought £1.4bn was a pretty hefty amount”.

When asked about the new catch-up funding working out at £50 per pupil per year, he said: “It is quite unprecedented to be getting this quantum of money outside of a spending review.”

Pressed further on LBC Radio on whether he has requested an additional “£5-6bn”, Mr Williamson said: “It is incredibly tempting to get involved in divulging to you private conversations with the chancellor and the prime minister, but I’m going to possibly sidestep this one, if that’s OK?”

It is understood the chancellor witheld the recommended £15bn for the catch-up plan unveiled on Wednesday and offered £1.4bn instead.

Education unions have said the latest package would fall short of what is needed for pupils to reverse the damage of the coronavirus pandemic on education, which caused most pupils to spend months out of school in total.

Sir Kevan Collins, the education recovery commissioner, said the investment offered “evidence-based support to a significant number of our children and teachers” but added: “More will be needed to meet the scale of the challenge.”

The £1.4bn – made available on top of £1.7 billion already pledged – has come under fire following suggestions that Sir Kevan called for 10 times as much to be invested.

The education recovery commissioner, who is still considering long-term proposals to address the impact of Covid on children, reportedly called for £15 billion of funding and 100 extra hours of teaching per pupil.

After the new funding package was anounced, Mr Williamson said: “This is the third major package of catch-up funding in 12 months and demonstrates that we are taking a long-term, evidence-based approach to help children of all ages.”

The education secretary added: “The package will not just go a long way to boost children’s learning in the wake of the disruption caused by the pandemic but also help bring back down the attainment gap that we’ve been working to eradicate.”

Additional reporting by Press Association

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