Labour attacks ‘pitiful’ support for pupils as analysis shows eight weeks of school lost this year

Government’s recovery plan ‘utterly inadequate’, says opposition

Adam Forrest
Friday 06 August 2021 23:56 BST
<p>Pupils at Outwood Academy in Doncaster, Yorkshire after return in March</p>

Pupils at Outwood Academy in Doncaster, Yorkshire after return in March

The government’s “pitiful” catch-up funding will leave millions of children without extra support, Labour has warned – as new analysis shows pupils in England lost eight weeks of school teaching this year.

Keir Starmer’s party said 346 million days of face-to-face learning were lost to England’s pupils during the academic year gone by because of disruption caused by the Covid crisis.

The opposition party urged the government to consider putting £15bn into catch-up funding – warning that the current £1.4bn package could leave many of the poorest pupils behind.

The government’s recovery tsar Sir Kevan Collins quit his post in June in protest at a funding plan he described as falling “far short of what is needed” to alleviate the impact of the pandemic on children’s learning.

The catch-up funding – amounting to £6,000 per year for each primary school – was denounced by school leaders as “pitiful”.

New Labour analysis shows that around 560,000 year 11 students will leave secondary school this summer without any of the government’s catch-up support, while over the next four years nearly two million pupils will miss out necessary recovery support.

The party warned that lost teaching time had not been felt evenly during the pandemic – and some more required more catch-up support than others. Pupils on free school meals are 30 per cent more likely to have been out of school in the autumn term, according to its analysis.

Kate Green MP, Labour’s shadow education secretary, said: “The Conservatives have treated children as an afterthought failing to keep them learning together in school with their friends.

“Ministers have now compounded this failure with an utterly inadequate recovery plan which will leave millions of children without any additional support, showing a shocking lack of ambition for their future ambitions and life chances.

“Labour has set out a bold plan to invest in our children’s futures, compensating for the Conservatives’ failures over the last year ... It’s time for the Conservatives to get behind Labour’s plan and match our ambition for children’s futures.”

Labour’s warning comes ahead of almost 800,000 pupils receiving their A-level, GCSE and BTEC results this week – with expectations of record-breaking numbers of top-scoring results based on teacher assessments, as well as tests done in schools.

The opposition and teaching unions have accused the government of failing to set out how it will make sure results are fair for pupils who have missed most time in school – with concerns being raised that the most advantaged pupils are set to benefit from the system.

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