09 Jun Schools’ catch-up money for entire year ‘slightly more than one month of Eat Out to Help Out’
Catch-up money for schools over the next academic year is “only slightly more” than the amount spent on one month of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, according to a think-tank.
It comes after the government announced £1.4bn more would go towards reversing the impact of the Covid pandemic on pupils’ learning, mostly for tutoring, although headteachers claimed this fell short of what was needed.
Analysis by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) has found a total of £984m has been committed to catch-up for the next academic year, which the think-tank said was a “key year for education recovery”.
In comparison, the government spent £840m on its flagship Eat Out to Help Out scheme to support restaurants, cafes and pubs last summer.
The scheme – which gave customers discounted meals – ran for the month of August.
David Laws, the EPI’s executive chair, said: “Learning losses over the last year in England have been very significant, and require a recovery package of evidence-based policies supported by adequate finance from the government.”
He added: “It is striking that in one month the government spent almost as much subsidising meals in pubs and restaurants as it is now proposing to spend to fund education recovery over one full year for around nine million children.”
Geoff Barton from the Association for School and College leaders said the EPI analysis suggests the government considers children’s education to be “less important” than measures supporting the hospitality sector.
“It was willing to spend nearly as much on the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme over the course of a single month as it is on education recovery over the course of an entire academic year,” the union leader said.
“The only possible conclusion is that the government does not attach the same importance to education as it does to other public spending priorities.”
Meanwhile, Paul Whiteman from the school leaders’ union NAHT said: “As EPI point out, the government is not adverse to splashing the cash when they want to.”
He said the Eat Out to Help Out scheme was “just part of the support that has been given to businesses that totals tens of billions”.
The union’s general secretary added: “Of course, support for business is important, but it shows how far down the government’s list of priorities children and young people seem to place.”
The recent £1.4bn package for catch-up – which put the total committed to education recovery so far to over £3bn – sparked backlash this week, with education unions claiming it does not go far enough.
The government’s education recovery commissioner also resigned in protest.
The EPI said the recent £1.4bn funding boost worked out at around £50 more per pupil every year and called this “a fraction of the level of funding required to reverse learning loss seen by pupils” since March last year.
Taken together with a £1.7bn package announced earlier this year, the EPI estimated the government’s overall funding for education recovery works out at a total of around £310 per pupil over three years.
This compares with an equivalent total funding of £1,600 per pupil set aside in the US and £2,500 per pupil in the Netherlands over the same period, according to the EPI.
Labour has said it plans on forcing a Commons vote on Wednesday over the government’s school catch-up plans, which the shadow education secretary called “totally insufficient”.
When asked about estimates the latest batch of catch-up funding works out at £50 per pupil per year, Gavin Williamson told LBC this week: “It is quite unprecedented to be getting this quantum of money outside of a spending review.”
Announcing the £1.4bn funding package, the education secretary said it would “go long way to boost children’s learning” in the wake of Covid disruption and “help bring back down the attainment gap that we’ve been working to eradicate”.
The Department for Education (DfE) spokesperson said: “We have committed to an ambitious and long-term education recovery plan, including an investment to date of over £3bn and a significant expansion of our tutoring programme, to support children and young people to make up for learning lost during the pandemic.”