Education catch-up plan will not reach long-term disadvantaged in North West say business leaders

Business leaders have joined several high-profile and senior figures in calling out the Government's education recovery plan.

Friday, 4th June 2021, 3:45 pm
Lancashire pupils missed more than 800,000 days of face-to-face teaching in the autumn term

The Northern Powerhouse Partnership has called the 'catch-up' plan, which could see longer school days, more tuition and summer schools, 'underwhelming'.

The NPP, which represents business and civic leaders and aims to promote economic growth across the North of England, expressed concerns that the £3 billion funding would not reach disadvantaged families in the region.

Sarah Mulholland, Northern Powerhouse Partnership's head of policy, said: “We’ve heard time and again that education is this government’s top priority for the recovery but these plans are underwhelming to say the least.

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“One issue that is yet to be addressed is the fact that tutoring has got a much lower uptake in the North compared with the South - despite children here suffering disproportionately from lost learning days and delays to the government's roll-out of devices.

“The North also faces a far bigger challenge when it comes to the education disadvantage gap, especially in areas with high numbers of long-term disadvantaged families."

Statistics released by the Partnership and the Education Data Lab, suggest that 7.3 per cent of secondary pupils in the North West were 'long-term disadvantaged' - the second highest proportion in the country.

In the North East, 10.1 per cent of pupils were thought to suffer from long-term disadvantages. The same research, which was carried out prior to the pandemic, found that this applied to 2. 8 per cent of pupils in Outer London.

"There is a mountain to climb when it comes to getting children back on track with their education," said Sarah Mulholland.

"The most effective solution is to use relevant staff in schools, as well as working with northern universities who have spearheaded local schemes to train up their graduates."

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Former Labour MP for Blackpool South Gordon Marsden also hit out at the government’s new catch-up funding, calling it 'totally inadequate'.

Mr Marsden , who previously served as Shadow Minister for Higher Education, Further Education and Skills, said: “This schools ‘catch-up’ Government initiative is totally inadequate - only a tenth of what was recommended by their own education tsar, no enrichment activities and little extra support for the families in Blackpool whose children were hit hardest by lockdown.”

Labour's published its own alternative to the education recovery plan - a two-year £14.7 billion programme.

Government announced an extra £1.4 billion of funding for the 'catch-up' plan this week which aims to help pupils whose learning has been affected by the pandemic.

This brings the total investment to more than £3 billion which would be spent on extra tuition and Year 13 A Level pupils will be given the chance to repeat the year if they do not get the grades they expected.

Shortly after the extra funding was announced, education recovery commissioner Sir Kevan Collins resigned from his post after just four months.

It is thought that Sir Kevan had called for a much higher figure to be invested in catch-up efforts.

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