Rishi Sunak’s ‘meagre’ schools’ recovery funding falls ‘far short’, warns former government catch-up tsar

Settlement ‘represents a false economy and a step towards a less equal society’

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Thursday 28 October 2021 12:22
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Budget 2021: Sunak says per pupil funding will ‘return to 2010 levels’

Funding earmarked towards schools’ recovery in Rishi Sunak’s Budget has been labelled as “meagre” by the government’s former education catch-up tsar.

Warning the cash falls “far short” of what is required, Sir Kevan Collins said the settlement announced by the chancellor “represents a false economy and a step towards a less equal society”.

The withering verdict comes after Mr Sunak unveiled an additional £1.8 billion — on top of the £3.1 billion already pledged — to help schools and children recover from the disruption inflicted by the Covid crisis.

Sir Kevan, who resigned from his role in June, had put forward a £15 billion package — £10 billion more than the funding outlined at the Budget on Wednesday — while acting as education recovery commissioner.

Expressing his frustration, he wrote in The Times that it was “incredibly disappointing to see the government surrender” the prime minister’s target to recover lost learning caused by Covid within this parliament “so meekly”.

“I am concerned that the meagre measures announced today reveal a failure to recognise the foundational role schools play in creating fair and prosperous communities,” he said.

Sir Kevan added: “The short-term saving offered by a limited recovery programme will be dwarfed by the long-term cost of successive cohorts leaving education with lower skills, an effect that will be most apparent in our poorest communities.

“Today’s [Wednesday’s] settlement represents a false economy and a step towards a less equal society”.

His remarks were echoed by education unions on Wednesday, with the joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), accusing the chancellor of doing education recovery “on the cheap” that was “simply not good enough”.

He warned: “With just £2 billion added, the government’s plan for education recovery is completely inadequate.

“Recovery tsar Sir Kevan Collins proposed a £15 billion package and resigned when it was rejected. Even with the announcement today, the chancellor is operating at around a third of that price.”

Elsewhere, Mr Sunak also boasted to MPs that per pupil funding would be restored to 2021 levels in real terms by 2024-25 — after more than a decade of austerity.

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), between 2009-10 and 2018-19, spending per pupil fell by eight per cent in real terms in England, but rose again afterwards to “reach just below 2009-10 levels”.

“Not much of a boast really to say that school spending per pupils will return to 2010 levels,” the IFS director said. “A decade and a half without growth is quite a thing”.

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