Schools out: children face ‘lost decade’ in education after the pandemic

Government ministers have warned today that if action is not taken soon, some pupils will face a ‘lost decade’ of progress in schools in England.  

The Public Accounts Committee have expressed serious concern that it could take 10 years for the gap in attainment between disadvantaged pupils and others to return to pre-pandemic levels. According to Key Stage test results, years of progress children have made since 2012 to narrow the attainment gap had been reversed by 2022.

woman in black long sleeve shirt holding white face mask

In a previous attempt to help pupils catch up after COVID-19 the government made £5bn available for education recovery, however 13% of schools in England did not take part in helping their students. They failed to be a part of the National Tutoring Programme (NTP), which was set up in 2020, in 2021-22.

The programme provides primary and secondary schools with funding to subsidise tutoring, including one-to-one and group lessons.

Additionally, the Department for Education initially subsidised 75% of the costs which schools incurred for delivering the NTP, but this reduced to 60% this year and will continue down to 50% next year.

Against this backdrop, the Public Accounts Committee report calls on the Department of Education to find out why some schools are not taking part in the NTP and act to improve uptake. It also stated that the Department for Education should examine how much tutoring is being provided while it is being subsidised, and ‘intervene if tutoring levels drop significantly’ afterwards.

Following this, the Department of Educations special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) improvement plan has been published, however, the timetable stretches beyond 2025 while the children affected continue to make their way through the school system.

Dame Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Committee, said: ‘The Department for Education does not seem to appreciate the pressures schools are under as they seek to help pupils catch up amid funding constraints, challenges in recruitment and retention for staff and growing mental health needs for pupils.

‘It is therefore essential that government reckons with the reality of the situation and publishes focused plans on reducing the disadvantage gap and absence rates. It must also bolster uptake of tuition, an essential programme at risk of withering on the vine as subsidies are sharply reduced.

‘The consequences of a lost decade in progress narrowing the gap in attainment for disadvantaged children are immeasurable. Without swift action, the slow-motion catastrophe of the pandemic for children’s education, and in particular for disadvantaged children, will continue to have far-reaching consequences for an entire generation.’

Image: Kelly Sikkema


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