More than 240 organisations and sector leaders call for Government to urgently invest more in education catch-up

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

A cross-sector coalition of education experts, charities, and businesses is calling on the Government to urgently reconsider its education recovery plans and provide more funding for children and young people.

Campaigners say money promised by the Government for catch up 'falls far short' of what is needed to help children and young people recover from the pandemic PHOTO Adobe Stock
Campaigners say money promised by the Government for catch up 'falls far short' of what is needed to help children and young people recover from the pandemic PHOTO Adobe Stock

Two separate letters to the Prime Minister, co-ordinated by Fair Education Alliance and the National Children’s Bureau, have been signed by over 240 leaders calling for proper investment.

Experts are calling for the Government to set out a new and ambitious vision of childhood and education to support children, young people and their families to recover from the impact of Covid-19, with 'children at the heart' of the plans.

The NCB letter to Boris Johnson has been signed by over 140 organisations including charities, unions, and community organisations, while a similar letter co-ordinated by the Fair Education Alliance has been signed by over 100 educationalists, young people, businesses, and charities.

The campaigners are urging the Government to invest in their stated intention of levelling up and to provide an ambitious plan for the recovery for children and young people.

The letters coincide with a debate in parliament today (Wednesday) on a Labour motion criticising the Government’s catch-up plans.

Campaigners insist the pandemic has deepened the existing crisis in funding for the education of disadvantaged children. 

Alongside extra money for schools to spend on staff development and interventions for pupils, a wider investment in measures to address the impact of Covid-19 on children and young people - such as reversing child poverty, reducing waiting times for mental health help for children and young people, and investing in the services that protect children from abuse and neglect - is urgently needed, they say.

Anna Feuchtwang, chief executive of the NCB, said, ‘The pandemic has affected every single child in the country, causing untold disruption to their education, development and welfare. Children with disabilities, those suffering from trauma, and the millions living in poverty have been hit the hardest. 

'Yet the money promised to help their recovery falls far short and sends the message to struggling families that they simply aren’t a priority for the Government. As well as making up lost ground in education, we have to fight for a better deal for our children, one that protects their mental health, secures them adequate support services, and overcomes the devastating effects of poverty. The breadth of organisations calling for Government to realise this is too wide-reaching to ignore.’

Meanwhile, the Education Policy Institute (EPI) has today published research on current Government funding for education recovery, the extent of pupil learning loss, and a summary of interventions needed to undo the damage to children’s education following the pandemic. 

EPI analysis shows that Government funding for education recovery for pupils over the whole of the next academic year amounts to only slightly more than the funding that has gone towards the Chancellor’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme, which ran for one month. 

Under the Government’s current programme to support pupils’ recovery in England, it finds that funding for the 2021/22 academic year will amount to around £984 million – in contrast to the Government’s flagship scheme to support restaurants, cafés and pubs last August, which cost £840m.

EPI research has found that Government funding, announced last week, of £1.4 billion over three years will amount to around £50 per child a year.

Alongside the letters, business leaders have highlighted that a strong education system and wider support for those in need of help is critical for future economic success.

Campaigners argue that while the funding announced is welcome, it is not nearly enough to support holistic recovery plans for children and young people'.

They point out that there was already 'significant inequality' between poorer pupils and their wealthier peers pre-pandemic which required investment, and the pandemic has exacerbated this. Recovery plans need to take this into account, as well as the damage done by lockdowns.

Amanda Mackenzie, chief executive of Business in the Community, urged the Government 'to act before it's too late'.

She said, ‘The calls to action in these letters to the Prime Minster highlight essential issues that cannot go ignored. Business leaders share our view that the economic recovery and future prosperity of the UK rely on having a diverse, skilled and educated workforce, and that development starts with children.'

Sam Butters and Gina Cicerone, co-CEOs of the Fair Education Alliance, said, ‘Our Alliance wants to work with Government at this moment of opportunity to achieve the ambition of the levelling-up agenda and education recovery, but we need the scale of investment to match the scale of ambition. The breadth of support behind this letter from so many organisations, individuals and young people themselves shows that tackling disadvantage and putting children at the heart of recovery is a critical priority for our country right now.’

Jonathan Broadbery, director of policy and communications at the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said, ‘Children have missed out on so much during the pandemic and this has had the biggest impact on our youngest children. Many have now lived large parts of their lives under lockdown conditions, missing out on time with wider family or playing and learning with children of their own age.

‘While the Government’s commitment to education recovery is welcome, we need to see actions and investment to back up those words. The early years is the best time to invest in children’s learning as well as their physical, social and emotional development. It makes the biggest difference to their long-term educational outcomes and future life chances.

‘Children must be at the heart of any recovery plans and if we leave the early years behind we miss vital opportunities to get it right for all children.  We need to see a clear and urgent recovery plan providing the financial support and resources that our vital early years sector so desperately needs.’

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