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The Government’s education catch-up plans fail to offer pupils the support they need, a report suggests.
Proposals for catch-up support across all UK nations are unlikely to address the scale of learning loss following the pandemic, according to an analysis by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) think tank.
The report compares programmes established by the Governments of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to help children who have faced nearly a year of disruption to their education.
It concludes that funding directly committed in England and Scotland for their catch-up programmes is shown to be the most generous on a per pupil basis.
But the catch-up programmes in Wales and Northern Ireland are far better targeted at their most disadvantaged pupils, the report says.
Around half of Welsh and Northern Irish catch-up funding has been targeted towards poorer pupils, compared to around 30% in England and 20% in Scotland, according to the analysis.
But researchers conclude that all current catch-up plans are “insufficient” and they are calling on UK Governments to put in place multi-year education programmes which address the scale of learning loss.
It comes after the Prime Minister appointed Sir Kevan Collins as the education recovery commissioner to oversee the Government’s catch-up programme.
Last week, Sir Kevan described the Government’s commitment of £1.3 billion in funding to support pupils in England as a “good start”, but he acknowledged that it was not “going to do the job”.
The report, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, says all UK nations failed to provide sufficient guidance on how to support children with special educational needs and disabilities (Send) with remote learning.
This could prove “highly damaging” given the risk that many children with Send will have fallen behind their peers during the first lockdown and are likely to require more support, the paper adds.
“It is very clear that current education catch-up proposals offer only a fraction of the support that is needed to deal with the huge amount of lost learning time.
“Next week, alongside the decisions on school reopening, the Prime Minister should announce the first stage of an ambitious, multi-year programme of support for education recovery.
“The costs of lost learning time are likely to be very large, both in terms of national output and social mobility. We now need a set of solutions that will match the magnitude of this challenge.”
“The Scottish and UK Governments have so far committed the most catch-up funding. However, the programmes for both Scotland and England are poorly targeted.
“In comparison, we find that the programmes of Wales and Northern Ireland have lower funding in total, but focus more resources on the poorest pupils, who we know have been hardest hit.
“We know that the adverse effects of the pandemic will persist well beyond this academic year, so policymakers across the UK must look at providing additional catch-up funding over multiple years, with far greater levels targeted at the most disadvantaged pupils. Only then will we begin to meet the scale of the challenge posed by this crisis.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We hope that policy-makers heed this crystal clear warning that more funding needs to be put into catch-up support in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The investment so far announced is simply not enough to meet the scale of the challenge caused by a year of disruption to the education of millions of children.”
He added that schools did not need “policy gimmicks”, such as proposals to extend school days or the summer term, but instead they needed “sufficient funding” to provide high-quality targeted support.
A Department for Education (DfE) spokeswoman said: “We recognise that extended partial school closures have had an impact on all students’ education. That’s why we have provided our £1 billion covid catch up package, including £650 million for schools to use in the best interests of all their students, as well as investing £350 million in the National Tutoring Programme, so those who have been impacted most by the pandemic have the targeted support they need to catch up.
“We are investing a further £300 million in additional tutoring programmes, and have just appointed Sir Kevan Collins to the role of Education Recovery Commissioner, in recognition that a long-term plan is required to make sure pupils have the chance to make up their lost education over the course of this parliament.”
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