Boris’ school tsar quits in cash bust-up over extra tuition for children
Peston quizzes Nadhim Zahawi on lengthening the school day
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Sir Kevan said he was left with “no option” but to resign after the Prime Minister rejected his £15billion rescue package, which would have provided children with extra school-time, teaching and tutoring over three years. The PM has promised further funding on top of the total £3.1billion now allocated to help schools hit by the pandemic. But Sir Kevan said many of his proposals were ignored: “The support announced by the 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.
“The pandemic has affected all pupils but hit disadvantaged children hardest. 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.”
He continued: “It betrays an undervaluation of the importance of education, for individuals and as a driver of a more prosperous and healthy society. A half-hearted approach risks failing hundreds of thousands of pupils. “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.”
Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi accused unions of being to blame for thwarting Sir Kevan’s proposals, claiming they “resisted” extending the school day.
He said that was the biggest part of the plans but it needed the support of teaching unions: “The same people who are attacking us, saying ‘Why didn’t you go that far’, are the teaching unions who resisted the idea of extending the school day in the first place. “I’d like to see them, I’d like to see the Labour Party, say, ‘Actually you know what, that is the right thing to do, we’ll support it,’ then we’ll review it.”
Mr Johnson had made Sir Kevan education recovery commissioner in February, asking for a plan to help pupils catch up on lost schooling.
His report recommended that students receive an extra 100 hours of schooling each year from 2022, with a minimum 35-hour week. Under Sir Kevan’s proposals, £12billion of the £15billion would have been paid direct to schools – targeted at disadvantaged pupils. Instead the Department for Education unveiled a £1.4billion package – £50 per child – with tutoring for six million pupils and more training for 500,000 staff.
Sixth-formers might also take an extra year if they cannot finish A-level courses in time. The catch up funding is in addition to £1.7billion announced.
Mr Johnson indicated yesterday there would be “more coming through” to support children in England who had missed lessons. “Many kids are incredibly resilient but a lot of them also need help to catch up,” he added.
He said the funds should “give parents the confidence that their child is going to get particular attention”.
A No 10 spokesman said last night: “The Prime Minister is hugely grateful to Sir Kevan for his work. The Government will continue to focus on education recovery and making sure no child is left behind.”
It is understood the Treasury’s coffers, weakened by the effects of the pandemic, could not afford £15billion. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson conceded yesterday he had lost the funding argument.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of Schools and College Leaders, said Sir Kevan’s bolder plans “required substantially more investment than the Government was willing to provide.
“He’s tried his hardest. The political will just wasn’t there.
“We will not let this matter rest and will continue to press for a more substantial and ambitious recovery package. It is what our children need and deserve.”
Robert Halfon MP, chairman of the Commons Education Select Committee, said: “To lose someone of the stature of Sir Kevan Collins is a real blow. We need a properly resourced, radical long-term plan.”
Kate Green, shadow Education Secretary, said the schools tsar “was brought in by Boris Johnson because of his experience…but the Government have thrown out his ideas as soon as it came to stumping up the money”.
Mark Russell, chief executive of the Children’s Society charity, said Sir Kevan’s “ambitious aspirations” were “jettisoned in favour of a cost-saving sticking plaster”.
The respected Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank said even with previously announced funds the Government was spending £310 per pupil compared with £1,600 in the US.
The Netherlands has allocated around £2,500 for each child.
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