Covid catch-up needs £13.5bn over 3 years, say experts

Longer school days and incentives for teachers to work in challenging areas part of new think-tank recovery plan

John Roberts

Covid catch-up: £13.5bn schools scheme should include longer school days and teacher incentives, says EPI report

Longer school days, allowing some pupils to resit a year and extending the pupil premium will be needed to help secure education recovery from Covid, according to a major new report.

Plans for a three-year funding package of £13.5 billion have been set out today by a leading think tank to reverse the disruption to pupils' learning caused by the pandemic. 

The Education Policy Institute is calling on the government to offer more incentives for teachers to work in “challenging areas”, give schools funding to hire mental health workers and order Ofsted to refrain from "returning to business as usual" in its inspections as part of its catch-up plan.

The think tank has produced costed proposals for how to support pupils to catch up ahead of the government announcing its own education recovery plan, which prime minister Boris Johnson has said will be published shortly.

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Mr Johnson has already made £1.7 billion of catch-up funding available in England to help children who have faced disruption from school and college closures due to Covid-19.

Covid catch-up 'requires a serious funding boost'

As part of the recovery package, this year summer school will be introduced for pupils who need it the most, while tutoring schemes will be expanded.

But the EPI warned today that ministers will need to put in place an ambitious, multi-year programme of support to prevent total lost future earnings for pupils running into the tens of billions.

The report recommends a variety of policies to support pupils, including extending school hours to host sports clubs, social activities, games, pastoral support and academic programmes.

The think tank says longer days would allow pupils who have lost learning during the Covid pandemic to take part in social and academic activities.

It said summer wellbeing programmes should be open to all school-aged children, rather than just targeted at Year 7s, and the government should introduce a new right for pupils to repeat a year of education, where it is supported by their parents, to tackle extreme cases of learning loss.

The think tank added that extra payments given to teachers to work in “challenging areas” should be doubled to £2,000 a year, extended to existing teachers, and focused on the poorest 20-25 per cent of schools – and extra funding should be given to schools to hire mental health support workers.

Natalie Perera, EPI chief executive, said: “If the government is committed to building back better and preventing the harmful and long-term consequences of Covid, then it needs to provide a serious funding boost of around £13.5 billion over this Parliament to schools, early years settings and colleges.

“We are calling on the government to implement a series of effective, evidence-based policies from this September to support children and young people – not only with their learning, but with their wellbeing and mental health, too.”

David Laws, executive chairman of the EPI, said: “Over the last year, children have fallen badly behind in their learning, and those who are disadvantaged have suffered most acutely. We have seen the worst disruption to education in our country since the Second World War.

“If the pandemic is not to scar this generation of young people, the prime minister needs to put in place an ambitious education recovery plan, based on sound evidence and sufficient funding.

“If we fail to make good the lost learning, there will be significant adverse implications for skills, earnings, economic growth and social mobility.”

The government’s education recovery commissioner, Sir Kevan Collins, is considering long-term proposals to address the impact of Covid on children.

Meanwhile, the education secretary has confirmed that a change to the summer holidays and longer school days are being looked at as part of the long-term recovery plan for pupils who have missed out on lessons.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said extending school hours and opting for summer schemes “have a great deal of merit as long as they are properly resourced and do not increase the workload of leaders and teachers to an even more unsustainable level”.

He added: “But there are also many other very important proposals in this package, including increased funding for disadvantaged children in the early years, and disadvantaged students in 16-19 education, which seem so obviously right that the government simply must act.

“In the meantime, we look forward to hearing from the education recovery commissioner, Sir Kevan Collins, on the plans he is currently developing, and we appeal to the government to ensure that it backs up these plans with the funding that is so clearly required both immediately and in the longer term.”

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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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