The Government’s multimillion-pound support package for young children who have faced Covid-19 disruption is “not sufficient”, the education recovery tsar has said.
Sir Kevan Collins, the Government’s education recovery commissioner, told MPs that he did not believe £18 million of catch-up funding to support children in the early years across England was enough to address the challenges.
His comments came after Boris Johnson announced an extra £400 million of funding – on top of the £300 million pledged in January – to help pupils make up lost learning time following months of closures.
In June, the Prime Minister also announced a £1 billion catch-up fund for pupils.
But when asked whether there was enough support for preschool children in the measures announced last week, Sir Kevan said: “No, it is not sufficient.”
He added: “I think the whole package isn’t sufficient. I think it’s a good start but this is not the recovery plan.”
Addressing the education select committee, he added that leaders needed “to go much further” with long-term work to support young people.
When asked whether there was a national strategy to link together all the Government-funded schemes for disadvantaged children, Sir Kevan said: “No, I don’t think there’s enough of an integrated strategy.”
The Government’s recovery programme for children affected by the pandemic is revealing “underlying scars and issues” in the system, he told MPs.
Sir Kevan said: “We need to see this as not just tackling the recovery but actually a longer term piece of reform.”
He called for “urgent” support to be targeted at pupils in Year 11 and further education (FE) colleges seeking a vocational route, or those already on practical courses.
Sir Kevan said: “We need to think hard about that group who are always, I think, the group too easily forgotten. Who aren’t going on to university, aren’t going into A-levels, but are the young people I still think as a system we don’t serve as well as we should, and making sure that their needs are met.”
As part of the recovery package announced last week, summer schools will be introduced for pupils who need it the most, such as incoming Year 7 pupils, whilst tutoring schemes will be expanded.
The announcement came after the Government considered a variety of options as part of the catch-up plans for pupils who have missed out – including extended school days and shorter summer holidays.
When asked whether extending the school day could be an option in the future, Sir Kevan told the education select committee: “It’s a time for all things being considered, all things being available.”
Addressing the committee, Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), rejected the language of “catch-up” when addressing the impact of school and college closures on pupils.
He said: “Ultimately, the most important thing for young people is a broad and balanced curriculum where we don’t use the language of ‘catch-up’ and think right, I’ll take them out of their PE lessons and give them extra maths.
“This should be about quality not quantity, which is why I think a lot of us have problems with the summer school idea which we think is a bit of a marginal issue.”
On the return to school next week, Mr Barton added: “If my thesis is right that it’s about the quality of teaching rather than the quantity, my guess is that the routines for a lot of young people will suddenly kick back in and actually they will look back like the evacuees at the end of the Second World War thinking that’s an extraordinary experience, I’m glad to have lived through it.”