Ministers stand accused of shortchanging schoolchildren after it emerged the government spent more on Eat Out To Help Out than a new summer “catch up” scheme.
Boris Johnson’s £700m package to help youngsters forced to miss school due to Covid will fund lessons over summer. But the announcement has been branded “not adequate” by Labour and “not enough” by charities.
Shadow education secretary Kate Green said it amounts to 43p per day per child and is dwarfed by the £849m chancellor Rishi Sunak spent helping struggling pubs and restaurants.
Others have warned Johnson his government must do more to close the yawning inequalities hitting disadvantaged youngsters, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
Secondary schools will deliver summer tutoring as part of the programme for children in England.
It is backed by an extra £400m of funding, which follows £300m pledged in January.
Summer provision will be introduced for pupils who need it the most, such as incoming Year 7 pupils, whilst one-to-one and small group tutoring schemes will be expanded.
The programme includes a one-off £302m ‘recovery premium’ for primary and secondary schools to support disadvantaged pupils.
Schools are due to reopen on March 8 as England begins to emerge from its third national lockdown.
Green said: “This is not adequate and will not make up for the learning and time with friends that children have lost.
“There is no specific mention of supporting children’s mental health or wellbeing, which is fundamental to enabling their recovery from this pandemic.
“Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak spent more on the failed Eat Out to Help Out Scheme than they will on our children’s recovery.”
Natalie Perera, chief executive of the Education Policy Institute (EPI) think tank, said: “While any additional support for schools is welcome, the government’s package announced today is not enough to support pupils to catch up on their learning and to provide wellbeing activities for pupils of all ages.
“The new recovery premium is a step in the right direction, but £6,000 for the average primary school and £22,000 for the average secondary is much too modest to make a serious difference.
“The prime minister has acknowledged that a much more ambitious and long-term education recovery plan is needed. When this emerges, later this year, it must be bold enough to tackle the scale of lost learning, particularly for more disadvantaged pupils who are at risk of falling further behind.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said it was “frustrating” that the £700m package had been “salami-sliced to such an extent that it may reduce its effectiveness”.
He said: “Our view is that the total sum of the money should go directly to schools, colleges, and early years providers, rather than being diverted into other pots or ring-fenced.”
Sir Peter Lampl, founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust, called the package of measures “a promising start”, but he added there were “no quick fixes” as he called for a consistent multi-year recovery plan.
He said: “The strongest evidence for accelerating learning is for increasing time for high-quality teaching. Targeted summer schools are one way to achieve this, and it’s good that schools will have flexibility to decide what will work best for them and their staff.
“However, it’s important to recognise the problem of teacher burnout that could be exacerbated by additional workload.”
Johnson said his “priority will be ensuring no child is left behind”.
He added: “This extensive programme of catch-up funding will equip teachers with the tools and resources they need to support their pupils, and give children the opportunities they deserve to learn and fulfil their potential.”
It comes after the PM made Kevan Collins education recovery commissioner to oversee the catch-up programme.
In June last year, Boris Johnson announced a £1bn catch-up fund to help pupils in England.
The package included £350 million for the National Tutoring Programme (NPP) to help the most disadvantaged pupils, and £650 million for schools to help children from all backgrounds catch up.