The paltry funding of a post-pandemic catch-up strategy needs upping by a factor of at least 10
Viewers of breakfast television may have experienced a disturbing sense of deja vu on Wednesday. Outside, glorious sunshine heralded another perfect summer’s day; on screen, the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, was defending a Covid schools announcement that had been greeted with immediate and almost universal criticism. It all felt very “summer of 2020”, when the exam-marking fiasco cast a shadow of ministerial incompetence over the end of the academic year.
Sadly, the government’s post-pandemic catch-up plans for pupils are very much a disaster of the present moment. Mr Williamson has unveiled a new £1.4bn programme to help English children regain lost ground, after 15 months of severe educational disruption and psychological strain. The money, mainly targeted at limited extra tutoring and teacher training, is about a tenth of the amount called for by Sir Kevan Collins, the government’s now-ex education recovery commissioner. The Education Policy Institute estimates that pandemic-related spending on English pupils adds up to £310 a head. That compares to equivalent figures of £1,600 in the US and £2,500 in the Netherlands. Having said, with heavy understatement, “more will be needed to meet the challenge”, Sir Kevan decided enough was enough and quit his post. It is not hard to see why.
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