Labour to force Commons vote on ‘totally insufficient’ schools catch-up funding

Labour is to force a Commons vote on the government’s school catch-up plans in the hope of embarrasing ministers over “totally insufficient” funding which has already led to resignation of the education recovery tsar.

The government announced a new funding package of £1.4bn to help children to make up learning lost due to Covid lockdowns, with most of the money investment going towards tutoring.

Sir Kevan Collins resigned as education recovery commissioner in the wake of the announcement, saying the support “falls far short of what is needed”.

Labour plans to use an opposition day debate in the House of Commons on Wednesday to pile pressure on ministers to U-turn on the funding package by encouraging Tory MPs to rebel and demand more cash for schools.

“The Conservatives have treated children as an afterthought throughout the pandemic and are now neglecting them in our recovery,” Kate Green, the shadow education secretary, said.

“Kevan Collins’ resignation makes it clear that the government’s education recovery plan is totally insufficient to help every child bounce back from these impacts of the pandemic.”

The Labour MP added: “Conservative MPs will now have the chance to step up and vote for our children’s futures.”

Robert Halfon, the Tory chair of the Commons Education Committee chairman has voiced his concerns over current provisions, calling them “piecemeal”.

Tory MP Anne-Marie Morris has also questioned whether the Treasury “understands the real world” following reports Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, blocked pitches from Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, for extra cash.

Sir Kevan was reportedly pushing for a £15bn learning recovery fund – 10 times more than that announced by the Mr Williamson – and 100 extra hours of teaching per pupil as part of his recommendations for addressing lost learning.

He also recommended that schools and colleges should be funded for a flexible extension to school time – the equivalent to 30 extra minutes every day.

Of the new funding package, £1bn will go towards expanding tutoring available in schools and colleges, while the rest will go towards allowing some Year 13 students to repeat their final year and staff training and support.

The Education Policy Institute (EPI), a think-tank, said the £1.4bn boost worked out at around £50 more per pupil every year and called this “a fraction of the level of funding required to reverse learning loss seen by pupils” since March last year.

Taken together with a £1.7bn package announced earlier this year, the EPI estimated the government’s overall funding for education recovery works out at a total of around £310 per pupil over three years.

This compares with an equivalent total funding of £1,600 per pupil set aside in the US and £2,500 per pupil in the Netherlands over the same period, the Education Policy Institute said.

School leaders have said the latest package would fall short of what is needed for pupils to reverse the damage of the coronavirus pandemic on education, which caused most pupils to spend months out of school in total.

When asked about EPI estimations the latest batch of catch-up funding works out at £50 per pupil per year, Gavin Williamson told LBC this week: “It is quite unprecedented to be getting this quantum of money outside of a spending review.”

Announcing the £1.4bn funding package, the education secretary said it would “go long way to boost children’s learning” in the wake of Covid disruption and “help bring back down the attainment gap that we’ve been working to eradicate”.

A government spokeswoman said: “We have committed to an ambitious, long-term education recovery plan, including an investment to date of over £3bn and a significant expansion of our tutoring programme, to support children and young people to make up for learning lost during the pandemic.”

Additional reporting by Press Association