Economic cost of lost learning to run into billions, Sir Kevan Collins warns

·3-min read

Sir Kevan Collins has quit as the education catch-up tsar over his fears that the Government’s £1.4 billion fund to help children recover missed lessons “falls far short of what is needed”.

It has been reported that he called for £15 billion of funding and 100 extra hours of teaching per pupil, rather than the £1.4 billion additional fund announced by the Government.

In his letter to the prime minister, Sir Kevan, who has resigned after just four months of being the education recovery commissioner, says: “One conservative estimate puts the long-term economic cost of lost learning in England due to the pandemic at £100 billion, with the average pupil having missed 115 days in school.

“In parts of the country where schools were closed for longer, such as the North, the impact of low skills on productivity is likely to be particularly severe.”

Coronavirus – Mon Mar 8, 2021
A teacher behind a screen and students in a classroom in Birmingham in the West Midlands (Jacob King/PA)

According to Sir Kevan’s figures in his statement, the average primary school will directly receive just £6,000 per year, equivalent to £22 per child.

He warns the current package of support is “too narrow, too small and will be delivered too slowly” and the pandemic has already wreaked the greatest damage on children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Earlier this year, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) suggested that pupils who have lost six months of normal schooling could lose approximately £40,000 in income over their lifetime.

This equates to £350 billion in lost lifetime earnings across the 8.7 million schoolchildren in the UK.

If society manages to mitigate three-quarters of the long-run effects of learning loss, the total would still be nearly £90 billion, according to an IFS paper.

The body added that the long-run risks to the public finances could also be severe.

If 30-40% of future lifetime earnings ends up as taxes, then lost earnings of £350 billion would mean more than £100 billion less tax revenue over the long run to spend on public services or paying down the debts that are currently being accumulated.

The IFS paper warned that significant remedial action was urgently needed and the necessary responses were “likely to be complex, hard and expensive”.

Without such measures, lost learning could translate into reduced productivity, lower incomes, lower tax revenues, higher inequality and potentially expensive social ills.

It added that the effects of lost learning could possibly be neutralised for those from well-off families and the long-run negative effects could be concentrated amongst those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Teacher study
The IFS paper warned that significant remedial action was urgently needed (PA)

The Education Policy Institute (EPI) think tank has previously estimated that a three-year funding package of £13.5 billion is required in England to reverse the disruption to pupils’ education due to the pandemic.

In a report, the EPI said that longer school days should be introduced so pupils who have lost learning amid Covid can take part in social and academic activities.

It also added that school hours should be extended, more incentives should be offered for teachers to work in “challenging areas”, and some pupils should be allowed to retake the year as part of its education recovery plans.

The money, announced by the Department for Education (DfE) on Wednesday, will be used to offer pupils up to 100 million hours of tuition as part of the Government’s catch-up programme for children in England who have faced disruption due to Covid-19.

The £1.4 billion is being made available on top of £1.7 billion that has already been pledged.

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