The government has taken "every step possible to protect the education and life chances of young people", schools minister Nick Gibb told MPs today.
Speaking in the House of Commons this afternoon, Mr Gibb said the government was “ready to spend to deliver on our commitment to education” and said that more money was “coming down the track”, following the announcement of a further £1.4 billion in catch-up funding last week.
And he repeated education secretary Gavin Williamson's announcement yesterday that a review will take place into extending the school day.
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He said: “If having pupils back at school and benefitting from great teaching is key to catch-up, why wouldn’t a proposal to extend the time children spend at school be a highly effective measure to increase attainment and help children catch up on what has been lost during the pandemic?... It would be a big change, would require significant funding and more teachers, which is why we are right to take a short period of time to review the evidence and to consult, and this review will be ready in time for the spending review later this year.”
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Mr Gibb added: “We have taken every step possible to protect the education and life chances of young people. Our commitment to education has been at the core of the government’s decision-making, only closing schools when absolutely necessary and reopening them before any other sector of society and the economy.”
Also speaking in Labour’s opposition day debate on investing in children and young people, Conservative MP and former teacher Jonathan Gullis told MPs that shortening the school holiday from six weeks to four would save an average family £266.
The MP for Stoke on Trent North told the Commons: “That was a huge financial impact in the pockets of those parents while also helping to tackle the plight of children not being able to get fed over a long summer break.
“But, more importantly as well, it also means those children from disadvantaged backgrounds – where the attainment gap widens through the six-week summer break –that they can actually continue to be narrowed and meaning when they return they’re not having to spend the first seven weeks, on average, of their term having to catch up to where they were at the previous academic year.”
However, shadow education secretary Kate Green said the government’s plans to support children’s learning amid the Covid pandemic were “simply inexplicable”.
Ms Green spoke about the “dismay” of teachers and parents at the “wholly inadequate” announcement from the education secretary “providing just 10 per cent of the funding the government’s own education adviser, Sir Kevan Collins, had said was needed to enable children and young people to bounce back from the pandemic”.
She added: “If this government really wants to make good on the prime minister’s claim that children’s education is his priority, then the paltry announcement we got last week is simply inexplicable.”
The government’s package, she said, “performs woefully” when compared with those of other countries, adding: “The suggestion that last week’s announcement is just an instalment, that there will be a review of what more is needed, is both wholly unnecessary when Sir Kevan Collins has laid out a clear and comprehensive plan, and an insult to children who’ve already lost between two and four months of classroom time and shouldn’t have to wait another term or more for the support they need to recover from the pandemic.”