Starmer tells PM to back Labour on education or risk 'holding UK back for a generation'

9 June 2021, 14:02 | Updated: 9 June 2021, 14:24

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Sir Keir Starmer today called on the Prime Minister to back a Labour motion which blasts the Government’s "inadequate proposals" to help pupils catch up on lost learning.

The motion, which demands a more ambitious plan before the summer holidays for children affected by school closures, is due to go to a vote on Wednesday afternoon.

During PMQs, Sir Keir said only £310 is currently being provided to each child in England over four years, even if previous funding is taken into account.

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He compared this to the catch-up plan in the US, worth £1,600 per child, and in the Netherlands, which amounts to £2,500.

Boris Johnson responded by claiming the UK's tuition programme is the biggest "anywhere in the world".

The Labour leader warned the Government "will hold Britain back for a generation" if it doesn’t change course.

It comes after its catch-up tsar Sir Kevan Collins resigned last week over the £1.4 billion recovery fund, amid reports he was pushing for £15 billion.

On Wednesday, Sir Keir urged Mr Johnson to back Labour's "bold £15 billion" plan before adding: "We've been here before: free school meals, U-turn; exams fiasco, U-turn; now catch up.

"The Prime Minister's been all over the place when it comes to education and he's on the wrong side of it again."

Sir Keir also asked the Prime Minister to explain which part of Labour's education plan he opposed.

He said: "Is it breakfast clubs for every child? Does he oppose that? Is it quality mental health support in every school? Does he oppose that?

"Is it more tutoring for every child that needs it? Does he oppose that? Or additional investment for children that have suffered the most?"

In response, Mr Johnson said he assumed from Sir Keir’s words that the Labour leader supports the Government’s programme.

He said the Government is now “coming in on the side” of children who cannot afford access to private tuition. 

"Six million kids, six million children will have access to tuition thanks to this programme. It is a fantastic thing, it is a revolution in education for this country," he said.

Referring to the resignation of Sir Kevan Collins, Sir Keir earlier said: "In February the Prime Minister appoints an expert to come up with a catch-up plan for education.

"He's a highly respected expert, consults widely and comes up with a plan.

"The Treasury baulks at it and says we'll only provide 10%, yes one tenth, of what's needed. The Prime Minister rolls over, whatever he says, and children lose out. So much for levelling up.

"Let me help the Prime Minister with the numbers. The funding he announced last week is about £50 per child per year, and even if you add in previous announcements, in England it's only £310 per child over four years.

"Yet in the US there's a catch-up plan worth £1,600 per child and in the Netherlands it's £2,500."

Mr Johnson responded by saying the Labour leader "needs to do some catch-up on his own mathematics", adding: "In addition to the £14 billion I've already referred to, there's already another £1.5 billion of catch-up - this is a £3 billion catch-up plan just for starters.

"It includes the biggest programme of tuition - of one-to-one, one-to-two, one-to-three tutorials - anywhere in the world."