Nick Ferrari confronts minister over widely criticised education plan as tsar quits

3 June 2021, 09:01

By Fiona Jones

Nick Ferrari challenges safeguarding minister Victoria Atkins over the "half-hearted" education recovery catch up plan, as education commissioner Sir Kevan Collins resigns.

Sir Kevan Collins has sent a letter of resignation to the Prime Minister, condemning the lack of funding offered to help children make up for lost learning over the pandemic.

The education tsar, appointed solely to advise on this issue, branded the Government's £1.4 billion scheme a "half-hearted approach" which risks "failing hundreds of thousands of pupils".

The funding, which equates to £50 per student, has been widely criticised by education leaders with Chartered College of Teaching chief Alison Peacock branding the sum "derisory."

Nick challenged Ms Atkins over the tsar quitting and questioned why he was not given enough cash by the Treasury.

She responded: "We're extremely grateful to Sir Kevan Collins for his work on trying to help children and young people catch up after this pandemic. It's been a terrible year for us all but there's been a particular price that young people have paid, not just in their schooling but in their day to day life as well.

"Sir Kevan has made a list of recommendations, we have announced this week a further £1.4 billion to really target this."

Nick quoted Sir Kevan's statement that it is a "half-hearted approach that risks failing hundreds of thousands of students", asking, "How can you keep a straight face when you say that? You've got to find more cash, haven't you?"

"The Prime Minister reiterated yesterday that this is just part of our programme of work to help children and young people catch up.

"Last summer we announced £1.7 billion and offered a range of measures to help children including holiday learning and holiday schools. Also importantly one on one tutoring."

Nick questioned what the attendance level is for the extra tutoring sessions, however Ms Atkins did not have the figures.

"What I've been shown is they can have an impact of up to three to five months improvement in terms of boosting education," Ms Atkins said, "that is why with this latest announcement £1 billion worth of that is being focused on the tutoring schemes.

"We're going to be offering up to 100 million hours' worth of tutoring on top of the normal school day."

The Department for Education's programme includes £1 billion to support up to six million, 15-hour tutoring courses for disadvantaged pupils, as well as an expansion of the 16-19 tuition fund which will target subjects such as maths and English.

A further £400 million will go towards high-quality training for early years practitioners and school teachers to ensure children progress.

Criticising the funding in his resignation letter, Sir Kevan said: "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."