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Government’s catch-up tutor programme will reach less than half of disadvantaged children, minister admits

·2-min read
Fewer than half of disadvantaged pupils in the government’s catch-up programme will be reached (Getty Images)
Fewer than half of disadvantaged pupils in the government’s catch-up programme will be reached (Getty Images)

Labour has blasted the government's school catch-up programme after new figures showed it will reach less than half of pupils on free school meals.

Boris Johnson promised a "tutoring revolution" at the beginning of the month, with small group learning designed to help children catch up on learning time lost to Covid.

But ministers now have quietly admitted that the programme will reach just 750,000 disadvantaged pupils during the 2021/22 academic year.

The admission, made by schools minister Nick Gibb in a parliamentary written answer, appears to confirm fears from the government's own education experts that the funding earmarked by the Treasury for the scheme would be stretched too thinly.

It means just 43 per cent of disadvantaged pupils, defined as those eligible for free school meals, or 8 per cent of all school children will benefit.

“We have seen failure, upon failure from this Conservative government which has treated children as an afterthought and is now failing to invest in their futures," said Kate Green, Labour’s shadow education secretary.

“Not only is there nothing in their proposals to support children’s wellbeing or social development but the academic element is woefully insufficient, failing to live up to the promised tutoring revolution.

“Labour has listened to parents, teachers and children and set out a recovery plan that is ambitious for children futures, with tutoring for all who need it alongside investment in activities and clubs creating new opportunities for every child.”

In February the government appointed Sir Kevan Collins as its schools recovery commissioner and asked him to develop a plan to help pupils make up for lost learning.

The Education Policy Institute calculated that his proposals would require £13.5bn to work, while Sir Kevan himself was reported as having put forward plans costing £15bn.

But when the government's official programme was eventually announced at the beginning of June the Treasury had earmarked just £1.4 billion for it – around £50 per pupil.

Sir Kevan wrote to the prime minister Mr Johnson stating: "I do not believe it is credible that a successful recovery can be achieved with a programme of support of this size."

Approached for comment, a Department for Education spokesperson said: “As part of our ambitious and long-term education recovery plan, we’re investing over £1.5bn for tutoring in schools and colleges, with over £500m going directly to schools to allow them identify and use their own tutors, and £1bn invested through the NTP and colleges, which is providing high quality tutoring for thousands of young people.

“We are also giving over £900m to schools - through the catch up and recovery premiums – which can be used flexibly to support pupils in the way that works best for them.”

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