Schools get extra £1.8 billion to catch up on learning lost to Covid

A cash injection of £1.8 billion to help children catch up on the learning which they lost during the pandemic has been announced by the Chancellor, with new funding set aside to lengthen the school day.

Repeated lockdowns and classroom closures have caused "significant problems" for education, and the funding boost is a sign of the Treasury’s "commitment" to schools, Rishi Sunak said.

The Chancellor said this new tranche of catch-up funding is on top of the £3.1 billion the Government has already spent, bringing the total amount to almost £5 billion.

It came after Mr Sunak said last weekend that the Government had already "maxed out" its capacity to spend on Covid catch-up programmes and hinted there would be no extra money for this.

The amount was hailed as "unprecedented" by Nadhim Zahawi, the Education Secretary.

Writing for The Telegraph, he said: "The funding we secured in Wednesday’s Spending Review is a landmark investment in skills, schools and families.

"The Chancellor has shown that we will put money behind enhancing the recovery we know is already under way for young people, building on the real impact of the steps we’ve taken so far -whether that’s tutoring, world-class teacher training or summer schools."

The majority of the new catch-up cash – £1 billion – will be earmarked for disadvantaged primary and secondary school children aged under 16.

Department for Education core spending on schools

Schools will be allowed to decide how to spend the money but they will be encouraged to use it for evidence-based interventions such as small-group tuition and extra-curricular activities like sports, drama and art.

Meanwhile, the remaining £800 million will allow sixth form students, aged 16 to 19, to have an extra 40 hours a week of lessons over the academic year, which is equivalent to one additional hour a week for each school or college.

The amount of money set aside to fund pupils’ catch-up has been a source of tension in Whitehall. Earlier this year, the Government’s own catch-up tsar quit after warning that the amount of funding did "not come close to meeting the scale of the challenge".

Sir Kevan Collins’ resignation in June came less than 24 hours after Gavin Williamson, then education secretary, announced a new £1.4 billion cash injection for pupil tuition and teacher training. Sir Kevan had advised ministers that government funds of £15 billion over three years were necessary to reverse the damage done by Covid to pupils’ education.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, accused Mr Sunak of coming up with a catch-up plan "on the cheap".

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that while the funds were a "step in the right direction" they were "nowhere near what is needed".

Mr Sunak told the Commons on Wednesday that an extra £4.7 billion of core funding will be provided to schools in 2024-25 and £153 million will be spent on early years education to "address the impact of the pandemic on the youngest children". He also said that more than £200 million will be made available for holiday activities and food programmes.

It follows a campaign by Marcus Rashford, the England footballer, to continue providing children with free school meals all year round.

Budget grid 2

Teaching unions attacked the Chancellor’s announcement saying the education recovery package is "completely inadequate".

The Education Policy Institute think tank has previously called for a three-year funding package of £13.5 billion in England to reverse the damage done by Covid.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: "The additional recovery funding announced today is welcome, though it falls far short of the £13-15 billion independent experts have said is needed.

"Children and young people have been hugely affected by the pandemic. The Government has made bold claims about levelling up and ‘no child left behind’. The investment announced today doesn’t meet those goals or the future needs of the country."

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