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Education Recovery Commissioner resigns amid funding row

The Education Recovery Commissioner has stepped down from the role amid a row over funding.

Prime minister Boris Johnson announced the appointment of Sir Kevan Collins as the government’s Education Recovery Commissioner in February, to oversee a comprehensive programme of catch-up aimed at young people who have lost out on learning due to the pandemic, saying: “I am absolutely determined that no child will be left behind as a result of the pandemic.”

However it has emerged that Sir Kevan Collins has handed in his resignation letter to the prime minister saying: “When we met last week, I told you that I do not believe it will be possible to deliver a successful recovery without significantly greater support than the government has, to date, indicated it intends to provide.”

“I am concerned that the apparent savings offered by an incremental approach to recovery represent a false economy, as learning losses that are not addressed quickly are likely to compound,” Sir Kevan said in his resignation letter published by the TES.

Yesterday, the government announced that children and young people across England will be offered up to 100 million hours of free tuition to help them catch up on learning lost during the pandemic.

It revealed that a total of £1.4 billion is being invested, including £1 billion to support up to 6 million, 15-hour tutoring courses for disadvantaged school children, as well as an expansion of the 16-19 tuition fund, targeting key subjects such as maths and English.

Early years practitioners and 500,000 school teachers across the country will be given training and support backed by £400 million, and schools and colleges will be funded to give some year 13 students the option to repeat their final year.

The government stated that £1.7 billion has already been announced to help children catch up on what they missed during the pandemic, which includes summer schools and mental health support, bringing total investment to over £3 billion.

Commenting on the government’s education recovery plan, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “The government’s plans for education recovery for the nation’s pupils are inadequate and incomplete. Rarely has so much been promised and so little delivered. The ‘new’ money being offered amounts to £1.4bn - way below the £15bn sum which Kevan Collins, the Education Recovery tzar, judged is needed to repair the damage done to the nation’s pupils because of Covid.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of NAHT, which represents leaders in the majority of schools, said: “After weeks of talking big and building expectation for education recovery this announcement only confirms the government's lack of ambition for education. It’s a damp squib - some focus in a couple of the right areas is simply not enough.”

The Education Policy Institute had previously stated that a three-year funding package of £13.5 billion is required to ensure the educational recovery of pupils following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yesterday, Sir Kevan offered his resignation stating: “The pandemic has caused a huge disruption to the lives of England’s children. Since my appointment I have spoken to hundreds of parents and thousands of school leaders. Based on these meetings and my analysis of assessment data, I am in no doubt about the size of the recovery challenge we face.”

“Without a comprehensive and urgent response, we risk failing hundreds of thousands of pupils,” he added.

In response to the funding announcement, Sir Kevan said while it “provides valuable support, including important investment in teaching quality and tutoring,” he added: “I do not believe it is credible that a successful recovery can be achieved with a programme of support of this size.”

“I hope that you are able to allocate the additional resources that are likely to be needed for a successful recovery through the forthcoming Spending Review. “I believe the settlement provided will define the international standing of England’s education system for years to come,” Sir Kevan concluded.

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We are sad but not surprised that Sir Kevan Collins is reported to be standing down as Education Recovery Commissioner following the government’s announcement of a recovery package which clearly falls a long way short of what he had in mind.

“We know that Sir Kevan had much bolder and broader plans but that these required substantially more investment than the government was willing to provide. He’s tried his hardest on behalf of children and young people, but, in the final analysis, the political will just wasn’t there to support him.

“Sir Kevan has huge credibility across the teaching profession and across government. We hope that this episode will focus the mind of ministers on the need to match their recovery rhetoric with action. Certainly, we will not let this matter rest and will continue to press for a more substantial and ambitious recovery package from the government. It is what our children need and deserve,” he concluded.

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