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Education leaders and unions criticise government for leaving out nurseries and colleges from £1bn learning fund

BORIS JOHNSON was criticised by education leaders and unions today for not consulting them over a new £1 billion school learning fund which excludes colleges and nurseries.

Headteachers say they were not consulted on the details of the scheme, which will provide £650 million to help pupils in England’s primary and secondary schools catch up on schooling missed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The remaining £350m of the fund will be spent on a one-year national tutoring scheme allowing schools to buy in subsidised additional help for the most disadvantaged children.

Concerns have been raised about the ability of schools already under severe financial pressure to pay towards the scheme.

College and nursery leaders criticised the government for leaving their sectors out.

David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said it was “indefensible” to overlook needs of college students across England.

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association, accused the government of failing young children “who are most in need of support in their early development.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, added that it was “frustrating” that the union had not been involved in any discussions ahead of the announcement.

National Education Union general secretary Kevin Courtney welcomed the funding for schools as a “welcome recognition of the importance of education.”

He added: “However, if social distancing is still required in September a full-time return to education means [that] government will have to find extra education staff and extra teaching spaces.

“The government must urgently engage with unions and others in the sector to plan for such a return – the National Education Union’s 10-point-plan is a good place to start.”

The Prime Minister said on a trip to a Hertfordshire school that it was “absolutely” his intention that children of all ages in England should be able to return to school on a five-days-a-week basis in September.

He said to “watch this space” when asked whether social-distancing restrictions could be cut to help schools to return in autumn.

Mr Johnson made the announcement today as the UK’s coronavirus alert level was reduced from four to three out of five.

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