‘Where is the funding for drama and music?’: Covid recovery plan

Harriet Clifford
Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Teaching unions have strongly criticised the government’s latest education recovery plan, describing it as ‘paltry’ and a ‘damp squib’.

'Education recovery cannot be done on the cheap'
'Education recovery cannot be done on the cheap'

eskay lim

The general secretaries of major teaching unions have condemned the next step in the government’s education recovery plan, describing it as ‘incomplete’ and ‘hugely disappointing’. 

Pledging an additional £1.4bn investment into England’s education, the government has today promised £1bn for 100 million hours of tutoring, £253m for teacher training and development, and £153m for new programmes for Early Years practitioners. 

Criticism has highlighted the much larger figure previously discussed, pointing to a ‘battle’ behind the scenes ‘clearly won’ by the Treasury. It has also been suggested that the announcement has been made during half-term to avoid attracting attention.

Responding to the plan, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said: ‘The Government’s plans for education recovery for the nation’s pupils are inadequate and incomplete. Rarely has so much been promised and so little delivered. 

‘The “new” money being offered amounts to £1.4bn - way below the £15bn sum which Kevan Collins, the Education Recovery tsar, judged is needed to repair the damage done to the nation’s pupils because of Covid.’

She continued: ‘Where in these plans is the funding for extra-curricular activities to support children and young people to regain their confidence in their abilities and talents? Where is the funding for drama and music, sport and skills development?’

‘Depressing but predictable’

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: ‘This is a hugely disappointing announcement which lets down the nation’s children and schools at a time when the government needed to step up and demonstrate its commitment to education. 

‘The amount of money that the government plans to put into education recovery is insufficient and shows a failure to recognise the scale of learning loss experienced by many pupils during the pandemic – particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

‘The sum of £1.4bn may sound like a big figure but it is divided into many different pots, has to be distributed across thousands of schools and millions of pupils, and the delivery processes outlined in the announcement seem incredibly complicated.

‘There has obviously been a battle behind the scenes over funding for education recovery which the Treasury has clearly won with the result that the settlement is less than a tenth of the £15bn that was being mooted.

‘The announcement has then been snuck out in half term presumably with the hope that it won’t attract too much attention.

‘Lack of ambition’

Barton added: ‘This was a great opportunity for the government to demonstrate that its rhetoric about levelling up had genuine meaning - that it had a real sense of ambition to do the best for disadvantaged youngsters in danger of falling further behind because of the pandemic.

‘Instead, it has comprehensively blown that opportunity, and shown a depressing but predictable lack of ambition.’

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of NAHT, commented: ‘After weeks of talking big and building expectation for education recovery, this announcement only confirms the government's lack of ambition for education. It’s a damp squib - some focus in a couple of the right areas is simply not enough.

‘The funding announced to back these plans is paltry compared to the amounts other countries have invested, or even compared to government spending on business recovery measures during the pandemic.

‘Education recovery cannot be done on the cheap. The question about how much should be spent on recovery is best answered with “whatever it costs”, such is the importance of investing in the future wellbeing of our young people and the future prosperity of our nation.’

Commenting on today’s announcement, education secretary Gavin Williamson said: ‘This is the third major package of catch-up funding in twelve months and demonstrates that we are taking a long-term, evidence-based approach to help children of all ages.

‘I am incredibly proud it recognises the efforts and dedication of our teachers who are at the forefront of children’s recovery – making sure every teacher has the opportunity to access world-leading training, giving them the skills and tools to help every child they work with to fulfil their potential.’

The £1.4bn injection is an additional investment on top of the £1.7bn already announced. The next stage in the government's recovery plan includes a review of time spent in school and college.