Exclusive: Extended school day plan hit by lack of cash

Ministers’ hopes of securing billions from the Treasury to pay for more school hours as a key catch-up strategy are fading, Tes has been told
30th May 2021, 10:22pm

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Exclusive: Extended school day plan hit by lack of cash

https://www.tes.com/magazine/news/general/exclusive-extended-school-day-plan-hit-lack-cash
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The government’s much vaunted education recovery plan is likely to amount to little more than an extra £1.5bn, with no cash to extend the school day, Tes has been told.

Sources say Number 10 and the Department for Education had been seeking as much as £15bn for the catch-up programme.

Many teachers will welcome the news that longer school hours now seem unlikely to materialise.

But the failure, so far, to convince the Treasury to fund what was supposed to be a centrepiece of the post Covid school catch-up plan will  dismay those in Number 10 and the DfE who have been pushing for it.

It also raises questions over how Sir Kevan Collins will react. The government’ education recovery commissioner has said the £1.7 billion catch-up funding already pledged by the government was “nowhere near enough” to do the job and has been clear he has “nothing to lose”.


Catch-up tsar: I have ‘nothing to lose’

Analysis: Will teachers fight a ‘catch-up’ extended school day?

ProposalsHow think tank would spend £13.5bn on Covid recovery

Related: Sir Kevan Collins wants teachers to increase learning time

Recovery commissioner: Asking teachers to do more has a price


Sir Kevan highlighted the need to “increase learning time for children” as soon as he was appointed to his role in February. He has since said that any extension to the school day should be compulsory and last month called for “billions” to be spent funding it.

A week ago Tes revealed how ministers were considering either a compulsory academic extra half hour at school or a more flexible 8am-6pm day. But both would require extra billions and sources say so far the  discussions have not been fruitful.

“Basically the Treasury won’t fund it [the extended school day],” one source told Tes.

They said the idea had not been completely dropped. But they predicted there would be no more than a pilot or a consultation on a longer day - not the sweeping national change that had been envisaged - when the recovery plan is announced next month.

It is understood the bulk of the £1.5bn or so for this diminished plan will be used to extend the National Tutoring Programme. One report today suggested this would fund 15 hours extra tuition per pupil

A source close to the catch-up discussions told Tes: “It’s totally the opposite of what you’re meant to do because you’re meant to manage expectations downwards and then come up with a big plan.

“On the one hand you’ve got the prime minister saying this is my biggest priority once Covid is done, and you’ve got Kevan Collins and you’re spending quite a lot of political capital pushing him and this big education recovery plan.

“You’re letting it be known you’re after somewhere between 10 and 15 billion and you end up with one and a half billion in change. It’s not great.

“And if you’re Kevan you might think, well, it’s not a brilliant legacy for me as the education recovery commissioner because I’ve ended up with something the government was basically going to do already. 

Backing for the need to spend as much as £15bn on education catch-up plan has also come from the Education Policy Institute think tank which has also produced its own costed scheme.   

Tes understands that government discussions are still ongoing on more funding for catch-up. But it is thought unlikely the Treasury will change its position significantly, especially with a forthcoming White Paper on the government’s costly levelling up agenda on the horizon.

The DfE, 10 Downing Street and the Treasury were all approached for comment.

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