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Education unions slam ‘pitiful’ government funding to help children catch up on lost learning during pandemic

EDUCATION unions have slammed the government’s “pitiful” funding to help children catch up on lost learning during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The money, announced by the Department for Education today, will be used to offer pupils extra tuition after children in British schools missed the most class time in Europe during three national lockdowns.

But the sum — £1.4 billion on top of £1.7bn already pledged — has come under fire following reports that the government’s own “catch-up czar” called for 10 times as much to be invested.

Education recovery commissioner Sir Kevan Collins is reported to have recommended £15bn of funding and 100 extra hours of teaching per pupil to meet the scale of the challenge.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, who said the money was a hefty amount but conceded more would be required, refused to comment on reports that Chancellor Rishi Sunak had lobbied against further spending.

Association of School and College Leaders general secretary Geoff Barton denounced the “pitiful” and “dispiriting” funding. 

“[It] essentially equates to £50 per head; you compare that with the US, which is [spending] £1,600 per young person, or the Netherlands, £2,500 per head,” he said.

“It’s time to stop the rhetoric and start the action on behalf of young people.”

National Education Union joint general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said children would suffer as a result of the government’s “inadequate and incomplete” plans. 

“The Treasury has shown, in this paltry offer, that it does not understand the essential foundation laid by education for the nation’s economic recovery,” she said. “Its failure is a scar which will take generations of young people to heal.”

NASUWT head Dr Patrick Roach agreed, saying the cash “falls far short of what is needed,” while NAHT leader Paul Whiteman criticised the announcement as a “damp squib” from ministers who lack ambition for education. 

Labour said the offer was letting children down, with shadow education secretary Kate Green warning young people could not afford to wait for minsters to propose a “sensible package” to address the problem. 

The government confirmed the results of its review into school day hours would be announced later in the year. Labour said moves to extend teaching hours would be unpopular with parents.

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