@BorisJohnson’s pupil catch up pledge: New analysis released today [20 Apr] by the Education Policy Institute (@EduPolicyInst) shows that a multi-year funding package of £10-15 billion is required to meet the Prime Minister’s pledge to make up the lost learning seen by pupils as a result of the pandemic.

Based on initial economic modelling of the impact of school closures, the research findings reveal the scale of the funding response needed from the government to deliver on its education catch up commitments for pupils in England. The findings are released ahead of a final EPI report on education recovery to be published in May.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has stated that establishing a long-term plan for pupil catch up is “the biggest priority”, pledging that “no child is left behind as a result of the learning they have lost over the past year” and that the government will also plug the gaps in education.”

The government has provided some short-term funding of £1.7bn to support pupils, but has recently begun formulating a more comprehensive education recovery settlement, following the appointment of its Education Recovery Commissioner, Sir Kevan Collins. This long-term catch-up package is likely to be published in the coming weeks.

The latest analysis by EPI for the Department for Education shows many pupils had already experienced as much as 3 months of lost learning by the autumn term, with further losses likely following another period of remote learning in early 2021.

The modelling set out in today’s paper shows that, without ambitious funding and interventions which tackle the scale of lost education, there are likely to be severe long-run consequences for young people’s education, earnings and life chances, which would in turn bring damage to the wider economy.

EPI has published its preliminary analysis today in order to inform the government’s recovery plans over the coming weeks. A final EPI report, which sets out a precise long-term funding package and proposes a series of policy recommendations on catch-up interventions, will be published in May.

Alongside findings on the scale of the funding required in England, today’s preliminary analysis also outlines the level of catch-up funding required in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The analysis shows that £1bn-£1.5bn catch up funding will be required to support pupils in Scotland, £600m-£900m in Wales and £350m-£500m in Northern Ireland.

You can read the new analysis paper here.

Key findings from the research:

How much learning have pupils lost?

  • The latest independent analysis on learning loss – undertaken by EPI and Renaissance Learning for the Department for Education (DfE) – shows that by the first half of the 2020 autumn term, pupils in England had experienced losses of up to two months in reading (in primary and secondary schools), and up to three months in maths (in primary schools).
  • Following another period of remote learning in early 2021, learning losses are likely to have increased further. EPI analysis on this learning loss will also be published by the DfE later this year.

The long-run impact of learning loss

  • Based on an estimated range of learning loss, EPI analysis shows that this would result in total lost lifetime earnings for pupils of between 1% and 3.4%.
  • This means that without significant policy action from the government, pupils could each see lost future income of between £8,000 and £50,000, equating to a total long-run cost between £60bn and £420bn across the 8 million school children in England.
  • However, this range is likely to be a highly conservative estimate of the true long-run costs of lost learning, given further expected costs in the form of reduced productivity, investment and innovation, the wider positive role of schooling on young people’s health and development, and the increased likelihood of widening inequalities.

The level of funding required to mitigate learning losses and narrow the gap

  • A three-year education recovery funding package for England of £10bn-15bn will be required from the government. This estimate is based on expected levels of learning loss, accounting for typical expenditure on schools, empirical evidence on the impact of additional spending on learning and the scale of interventions implemented in similar countries
  • Funding should be targeted towards existing cost-effective, evidence-based interventions, centred around additional academic programmes, improved teacher quality and support, support for vulnerable pupils, and extra-curricular programmes.
  • A recovery package must also encompass early years and post-16 education, as well as supporting children’s mental health and wellbeing.
  • However, a funding package which merely seeks to reverse the damage of the pandemic will be insufficient to address deeper problems in education. Prior to the pandemic, disadvantaged pupils in England were already 18 months of learning behind their more affluent peers by the time they took their GCSEs. This gap had started to widen a year before the onset of Covid-19. If the recovery package proves to be effective, then it should be sustained in the long-term to address pre-existing inequalities in education.
  • The nature and scope and of the immediate recovery package required strongly supports the need for a multi-year settlement. To enable activities, interventions and plans to begin from September 2021, this multi-year package will need to be put in place soon, well before the coming Spending Review this Autumn.

Education recovery in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

  • Based on the UK government allocating £10-15bn for a multi-year education recovery package in England, this would result in additional funding through the Barnett formula of £1bn-£1.5bn for Scotland, £600m-£900m for Wales and £350m-£500m for Northern Ireland.
  • These figures should be regarded as a benchmark to the level of funding required in each nation to prevent long-run economic costs arising from pandemic, though precise plans will need to be adapted to meet the specific education challenges in each country.

Commenting on the new analysis, Luke Sibieta, Research Fellow at the Education Policy Institute (EPI) said:

“Pupils have faced exceptional challenges over the last year, with many already months behind in their educational progress. If not properly addressed, our analysis shows this could result in reduced lifetime earnings of £8,000 to £50,000 per child, amounting to total losses of £60bn to £420bn for the country.”

“This is not a forecast of inevitable doom and gloom for today’s children, but a call to action for the adults and policymakers of today. Our modelling shows that a funding boost for education in the range of £10bn-£15bn is needed in England to counter the pandemic’s effects. The evidence clearly shows that catch-up is not a natural process - it requires active and sustained investments in high-quality teaching and interventions.

“If we are able to avert large, long-run economic costs with a properly funded recovery package, this will be a vivid demonstration of the incredible long-term value of investing in education, far larger than most government infrastructure projects.”

Natalie Perera, Chief Executive of the Education Policy Institute (EPI), said:

“Getting the long-term education recovery package right is a critical moment for our country as we look to recover and rebuild from the worst of the pandemic.

“This analysis shows that if the Prime Minister is to meet his key pledge to make good the learning losses seen by pupils, an ambitious, multi-year funding package of £10bn-£15bn is required. A final settlement which fails to meet this level would not only let down millions of young people, but could also spell serious consequences for the future economy.

“The government must follow the evidence as it formulates its policy response and put into action its plans for education recovery as soon as possible, well before the Autumn Spending Review.”

Sector Reaction

Kate Green MP 100x100Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said:

“Boris Johnson has betrayed children by overpromising and under-delivering on catch-up.

“After a decade of neglect of children’s learning, with rising class sizes and increasing child poverty, the Conservatives’ catch-up funding amounts to a measly 43p per child a day. Their inadequate, poorly targeted tutoring programme is leaving thousands without support and they have no plan for children’s wellbeing despite having had months away from their friends. 

“Labour would put children at the heart of our national recovery. We need catch-up breakfast clubs and a national strategy to ensure every child recovers from the pandemic and is supported to reach their full potential.”


James Turner 100x100James Turner, CEO of the Sutton Trust, said:

“No one doubts that the impact of the pandemic on children’s and young people’s life chances is going to have repercussions for years – even decades – to come. Our own research has highlighted the disproportionate impact of school closures on poorer students, who have struggled most with home schooling. Today’s research adds even more weight to the case for a significant programme of support over the course of this parliament. 

“The recovery plan must be ambitious, long term and multi-faceted. EPI is right to call for a major funding boost to reflect the scale of the challenge. Crucially, that needs to be focused on the most disadvantaged, who have felt the effects of the pandemic especially acutely, and include the early years and FE sectors too.

“Without doubt, teaching is the most important factor in improving the outcomes of all pupils, especially the poorest. EPI are right to say this needs to be at the heart of the government’s support for schools. Investing in the recruitment of new teachers and the retention and development of the existing workforce needs to be prioritised. We’d also like to see incentives for teachers to teach in the most disadvantaged schools.”

mary boustedDr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: 

“The National Education Union welcomes this important initial analysis by the Education Policy Institute looking at the scale of the challenge to help young people and their schools recover from the pandemic. 

“The educational divide has been growing over recent years. As the report points out British education has been blighted by increasing child poverty and that left many children extremely vulnerable when the pandemic struck. 

“We agree with the report’s conclusions that overcoming the pandemic is possible and that it should serve as a catalyst for sustained improvements in education. The scale of learning lost cannot be overcome by some short term, piecemeal measures such as catch-ups. This will require years of work and investment, not just in school but also extending the post-16 offer which has been cut so hard over the last decade.” 

“The report exposes the inadequacy of the Government plan to spend just £250 per pupil on educational recovery, whereas the United States are spending £1,600 per pupil and the Netherlands £2,500. 

“We agree schools need a multi-year £15 billion plan but for the plan to succeed we must also end the blight of child poverty – no longer can we allow children to come to school hungry.” 

Paul Whiteman 100x100Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

“We need to be honest and recognise that recovery is not going to be a quick or easy job. Children are returning to school needing not just academic help, but a wide range of pastoral, mental health and wellbeing support too.

“Unfortunately a simple return to ‘normal’ isn’t going to solve things. It will take a considerable long-term investment of time, money, energy and resources, which the government must recognise and provide.

“High-quality of teaching is the most important driver of educational progress, and the best contribution the government could make is to value and invest in the teaching profession.

“And while education recovery can and must be led by education experts, the impact of Covid on children and families reaches far beyond the school gates, throughout the communities that schools serve.

“Poverty and disadvantage, poor wellbeing, SEND, discrimination and inequality are the fundamental issues harming children. These must be addressed by government if we are to make a real difference in the future.

“This will require the support of well-integrated and well-funded services across the whole of a child’s life. Sadly, these services have been seriously damaged by more than a decade of austerity.

“The government must commit to a school funding package that matches their education recovery pledge in ambition. But schools cannot pick up the pieces alone. Government must also invest in all the services needed to support a child’s whole life.

Mr Whiteman called on government to commit to make the required funding available, saying:

"Other countries have signalled heavy investment in young people and the services they require. Here schools have had very little help to defray the costs associated with the pandemic, while technical changes to the way the pupil premium is calculated has resulted in schools losing funding for those pupils that need most support. The nation’s children deserve better.”

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