Sunak commits £1.8bn to catch-up and tutoring classes in England

Budget announcement to help children affected by pandemic disruption is climb-down for chancellor

Rishi Sunak has bowed to pleas for more help for children and young people affected by the disruption to their education caused by the Covid pandemic, unveiling a further £1.8bn to fund catch-up and tutoring classes in England.

With £1bn expected to be earmarked for pupils aged up to 16, and £800m for students aged 16-19, the announcement means that the government has now committed close to £5bn for recovery programmes, including the national tutoring programme and funding allocated directly to schools.

The announcement marks a climb-down by Sunak, who as recently as Sunday had said the government had “maxed out” its funding for education catch-up spending

However, the £5bn total remains far below the figure of £15bn required by the government’s own education recovery commissioner, Sir Kevan Collins, who resigned earlier this year after the government failed to back the spending required to fund his plans, including a longer school day.

But the £800m increase for colleges was welcomed by the further education sector, which has complained of being overlooked in previous funding rounds. David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said the extra funding would be a “lifeline” for older students with the least time remaining in formal education.

“We know that the opportunities for young people have reduced for many who missed out during the pandemic on their learning, training and wider enrichment. This funding will go some way to help colleges offer them a chance to make up for that, building a foundation for their next steps,” Hughes said.

The chancellor reiterated the government’s plans to return per pupil funding in real terms to the levels last seen in 2010, with a further £4.7bn in the overall funding allocation for schools by 2024-25.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “Taking so long to restore the cuts made from 2010 onwards should not be a matter of pride for any government, but one of embarrassment.

“With just £2bn added, the government’s plan for education recovery is completely inadequate. Recovery tsar Sir Kevan Collins proposed a £15bn package and resigned when it was rejected. Even with the announcement today, the chancellor is operating at around a third of that price. This is simply not good enough. Recovery will take years of work and investment.”

The Treasury’s documents suggested that additional pay rises for teachers proposed by the government would have to be met out of existing school budgets.

Sunak also confirmed that an extra £2.6bn would be allocated over the next three years to create 30,000 more school places for children and young people with special needs and disabilities.

The new places would be created in both mainstream and special educational needs schools, as well as spending to improve access in existing buildings and to construct special and alternative provision schools.

The funds should relieve pressure on local authorities to provide special school places, with many having to overspend their budgets on independent schools to met their legal obligations.

Mike Hobday, director of policy at the National Deaf Children’s Society, said: “This extra investment by the government is welcome and we hope it will help deaf children but the fact remains that the special educational needs system has been chronically under-funded for years.

“We now urgently need more teachers of the deaf, as numbers have fallen by 15% since 2011. While the plan to build new specialist classrooms is helpful, bricks and mortar alone won’t ensure the next generation of deaf talent doesn’t fall by the wayside. We need investment in school support and specialist services.”


Richard Adams Education editor

The GuardianTramp

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