Catching Up on Our Children's Education
By Munira Wilson
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats
Teachers have been off for over 267,000 days due to Covid since the return of school in September, meaning children have lost out on the equivalent of 1.5 million teaching hours in just this school year.
They have suffered enormous disruption to their education and spent months isolated from their peers.
Most children in the UK have lost half a year of schooling, 5% of their entire time in school, which we know has exacerbated educational inequalities and had a devastating impact on mental health.
The pandemic has put a huge strain on children and young people's mental health. They have suffered enormous disruption to their education and spent months isolated from their peers. With 1 in 6 children now suffering from a mental health condition, providing catch-up funding is an important way to take this pressure off children.
There are also huge impacts for the economy - children could lose earnings of up to £46,000 each over their lifetimes.
Concerns over their children falling behind as a result of the pandemic is one of the top concerns of parents as we begin to emerge from the pandemic. The Conservatives have let down parents and children by failing to invest in catch-up classes to make up for lost learning throughout the pandemic.
Children in the UK have lost half a year of schooling, 5% of their entire time in school, which we know has exacerbated educational inequalities.
This Government lost £16bn of taxpayers' money due to fraud and error in Covid loan schemes. Yet they only committed £4.9 billion to our children's catch-up. Not even one third of the £15 billion recommended by the Government's former Education Recovery Commissioner, Sir Kevan Collins.
Part of the reason we've seen the disadvantage gap grow during Covid is that many children from less-disadvantaged families are already getting extra tutoring or classes outside of school. As we recover from the pandemic, it is right that closing the disadvantage gap is a top priority for the Liberal Democrats.
In our new policy passed by members today, we are calling for:
- the Government to immediately commit the full £15 billion to catch-up funding for children, in line with the recommendations from the Government's former Education Recovery Commissioner, Sir Kevan Collins.
- the Government to distribute £5 billion of this funding to Catch-Up Vouchers worth £200 a year for 3 years, given directly to parents for all 8.3 million children in state-funded schools.
- £400 a year of vouchers for disadvantaged children eligible for the Pupil Premium or those with special educational needs.
- £600 a year of vouchers for pupils with special educational needs who are also eligible for free school meals, and looked-after or previously looked-after children.
This policy puts money directly into parents' and carers' hands to spend on whatever their children need most: tutoring in reading, writing or maths; music lessons; swimming classes or other physical education. And the 2 million most disadvantaged children would get double vouchers, so they can get the extra catch-up education they need.
For looked-after children, the vouchers would go to their foster parents or to the local authority, with a duty to spend them in the child's best interests. And those children would get triple vouchers, so they get the extra catch-up provision they need.
Our Catch-Up Vouchers could make an enormous difference to millions of children. We know it's vital to make sure all children get the catch-up support they need - they deserve the best chance for a bright future.