COVID-19: School catch-up tsar quits after wanting billions more in funding for pandemic recovery package

·3-min read

Boris Johnson's COVID catch-up tsar has resigned after claiming the government failed to provide enough money to fund a proper schools recovery plan.

Sir Kevan Collins said: "After the hardest of years, a comprehensive recovery plan - adequately funded and sustained over multiple years - would rebuild a stronger and fairer system.

"A half-hearted approach risks failing hundreds of thousands of pupils. The support announced by government so far does not come close to meeting the scale of the challenge and is why I have no option but to resign from my post."

Sky News understands the proposal put to the Treasury to help schools recover from lost learning during the coronavirus pandemic was worth around £15bn, with 100 extra hours of teaching per pupil.

However, only a £1.4bn package was unveiled by the government on Wednesday, with the plans denounced as a "damp squib" by unions.

Sir Kevan, who has been in the education sector for more than 30 years, said the package "falls far short of what is needed" and warned it is "too narrow, too small and will be delivered too slowly".

He added that the average primary school will receive just £6,000 per year, equivalent to £22 per child after the average pupil has "missed 115 days in school".

What did Sir Kevan propose?

The former teacher, who was appointed in February to help children recover lost learning, said he believes the recovery programme should also offer sport, music "and the rich range of activities that define a great education".

He had also proposed extending the school day for three years to ensure academic support did not squeeze out existing activities - but that is not part of the plan announced.

Mr Johnson earlier promised there would be "more coming down the track" and the money is funding "the biggest tutoring programme in the world".

What is in the government's package?

The plan announced on Wednesday morning includes £1bn to support up to six million 15-hour tutoring courses for disadvantaged children, as well as an expansion of the 16-19 tuition fund.

A total of £400m is to help give early years practitioners and 500,000 teachers training and support, while schools and colleges will be funded to give some Year 13 students the option to repeat their final year.

Labour's reaction

Labour's shadow education secretary Kate Green earlier told Sky News the package "falls woefully inadequate" of what is needed and said Sir Kevan's resignation is a "damning indictment" of the plan.

She added: "He was brought in by Boris Johnson because of his experience and expertise in education, but the government have thrown out his ideas as soon as it came to stumping up the money needed to deliver them.

"Our children and their future ambitions and life chances depend on us getting this right. The Conservatives' failure to deliver for children now could cost our country dearly long-term."

The government's reaction

Accepting Sir Kevan's resignation, a Number 10 spokeswoman said: "The prime minister is hugely grateful to Sir Kevan for his work in helping pupils catch up and recover from the effects of the pandemic.

"The government will continue to focus on education recovery and making sure no child is left behind with their learning, with over £3bn committed for catch up so far."