Education adviser resigns over Govt's £1.4bn schools catch-up plan

2 June 2021, 17:55 | Updated: 9 June 2021, 05:46

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Education adviser Sir Kevan Collins has resigned over the government's £1.4 billion catch-up plan for schools.

The recovery commissioner for schools has written to Boris Johnson to offer his resignation over the size of the fund.

He told the prime minister he does "not believe it is credible that a successful recovery can be achieved with a programme of support this size".

Sir Kevan had previously recommended investing £15 billion into the fund to close the learning gap caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

It comes following reports that he was on "resignation watch" throughout the day.

In a separate statement, he said: "The support announced by Government so far does not come close to meeting the scale of the challenge and is why I have no option but to resign from my post."

Read more: Extra tuition for pupils and option to repeat a year as part of £1.4bn plan

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The recovery tsar stepped into the role just five months ago and was tasked with overseeing the creation of a plan that would help pupils who had fallen behind at school due to Covid.

He recently proposed extending the time children spend in school so they can catch up quicker.

Sir Kevan told the PM: "The package of measures announced today provides valuable support, including important investment in teaching quality and tutoring.

"However, as I set out in my reports to you, I do not believe it is credible that a successful recovery can be achieved with a programme of support this size."

He said he hoped the upcoming Spending Review will see Mr Johnson allocating "the additional resources that are likely to be needed for a successful recovery".

"I believe the settlement provided will define the international standing of England's education system for years to come," the government adviser added.

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Sir Kevan Collins has resigned over the size of the government's schools catch-up plan
Sir Kevan Collins has resigned over the size of the government's schools catch-up plan. Picture: PA

His resignation as education recovery commissioner comes after the extra £1.4 billion announced for schoolchildren in England was branded "pitiful" by school leaders.

The money, announced by the Department for Education (DfE) on Wednesday and made available on top of £1.7 billion already pledged, will be used to offer pupils up to 100 million hours of tuition as part of the catch-up programme.

However, the fund came under fire following suggestions that Sir Kevan called for 10 times as much to be invested.

In his supporting statement, the recovery tsar said: "The package of support announced yesterday falls far short of what is needed. It is too narrow, too small and will be delivered too slowly.

"The average primary school will directly receive just £6,000 per year, equivalent to £22 per child. Not enough is being done to help vulnerable pupils, children in the early years or 16-to-19-year-olds.

"Above all, I am concerned that the package announced yesterday betrays an undervaluation of the importance of education, for individuals and as a driver of a more prosperous and healthy society."

Labour shadow education secretary Kate Green MP said: "Kevan Collins' resignation is a damning indictment of the Conservatives' education catch-up plan.

"He was brought in by Boris Johnson because of his experience and expertise in education, but the Government have thrown out his ideas as soon as it came to stumping up the money needed to deliver them.

"Labour has set out a plan to deliver the bold policies that will boost children's recovery from the pandemic recognising that learning and wellbeing go hand-in-hand together.

"Our children and their future ambitions and life chances depend on us getting this right. The Conservatives' failure to deliver for children now could cost our country dearly long-term."

A No 10 spokeswoman said: "The prime minister is hugely grateful to Sir Kevan for his work in helping pupils catch up and recover from the effects of the pandemic.

"The government will continue to focus on education recovery and making sure no child is left behind with their learning, with over £3 billion committed for catch-up so far."