School tsar blasts 'feeble' catch-up – and unveils plan Boris Johnson rejected

Kevan Collins gave a withering verdict on government ‘complacency’ over the future of our children in his first public appearance since he resigned in protest

Video Loading

Video Unavailable

Boris Johnson’s departed school catch-up tsar has blasted his “feeble” plans in a withering verdict on the PM and Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Sir Kevan Collins said helping pupils with lost learning cannot just be “a bit of tutoring in the corner” – and a “massive national effort” is needed instead.

He resigned in protest this month after his £15bn scheme was watered down to £1.4bn – which unions claim is as little as £22 per child in the average primary school.

In his charged first appearance since, Sir Kevan said he was “deeply disappointed” by the funding – and warned: “I’m very worried about the complacency that this [recovery] will happen naturally.”

He revealed he had personally made his case to Chancellor Rishi Sunak. And he criticised ministers for holding back extra cash until the “spending review cycle” – meaning it won’t be ready until after September.

Sir Kevan said he was “deeply disappointed” by the funding


Parliament Live)

Speaking to the Commons Education Committee, Sir Kevan said the final straw that led him to quit was the amount of money the PM offered – just a tenth of what he asked for, and mainly focused on tutoring.

Sir Kevan told MPs: “We know that our country’s responded in a way compared to some others which quite frankly is a bit feeble.

“The amount of money we’re responding with at the moment – these are significant sums.

“But this scale of shock – losing on average 115 days of face to face learning – requires a massive national effort to recover.

“And I worry that it’s not a bit of tutoring in the corner – it’s actually a fundamental approach a school needs to take… That’s why I was keen to see a whole school effort around time, around teaching, around tutoring, and not a narrow auxiliary attention to one activity.”

Sir Kevan confirmed for the first time that his “range of proposals” included a number nearing £15billion to help pupils recover.

He revealed he wanted to bring all schools with a shorter-than-average day up to the average of 6.5 hours – which would have forced 10,000 schools to immediately increase their hours.

A “significant number” of schools would have also trialled an extra half-hour on the day for tutoring, sport and arts, he added.

But the £1.4bn final proposal from the government “just wasn’t enough to deliver the kind of recover we need,” he told MPs.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is examining the school day and further changes could come in the government-wide spending review this autumn.

It’s understood his officials want to encourage school staff to work more overtime and pull in community volunteers to assist after-school clubs, to help persuade the Chancellor to loosen the purse strings.

Sir Kevan said: “I think the economic and the education arguments are so strong, of course the Treasury will respond to that. We must.”

Boris Johnson has been criticised over his education plan


Getty Images)

Sir Kevan said children are two months behind on reading and three months behind on maths, but those are “average numbers” and there’s a “huge range” with some losing out much more.

The impact of Covid has been “significant” on children’s learning and “is sitting there and not recovering”, he said.

That in turn threatens “life-long earnings” and future economy.

Sir Kevan said: “I’m personally very, very clear that the biggest impact of Covid will definitely be on our most disadvantaged children.

“The growing education inequality could be the legacy of Covid if we’re not very careful. We have to intentionally and directly intervene, support the children with the greatest need.”

Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green said: “Parents and schools are crying out for help and they’re just not getting it. The Government cannot simply wait until September to act on self-isolation and other measures we have been calling for.”

Downing Street insisted: “£1.4bn is a significant sum of money and comes on top of an additional £1.7bn.”


Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.  Learn more