A leading figure in education who was brought in to government earlier this year to advise on the sector’s recovery has quit his role in protest at the £1.4bn set out to close the learning gap.
Sir Kevan Collins was appointed as the government’s Education Recovery Commissioner in February, with Boris Johnson saying at the time he was “delighted” that Sir Kevan had taken on the role due to his “experience and expertise”.
Who is Kevan Collins?
A well-regarded and prominent figure in the education sector, news of Sir Kevan’s appointment back in February was met with praise by many.
As a former teacher who has also served as a Director of Children’s Services and CEO of the Education Endowment Foundation, Sir Kevan has worked in the sector for well over 30 years.
Commenting on his appointment back in February, education secretary Gavin Williamson said Sir Kevan, “brings a wealth of experience in education policy that I know will be invaluable in supporting all the young people who have been impacted by the pandemic”.
He added: “He will be a tremendous asset to those young people, their families, and everyone working in education who have my lasting gratitude for their efforts to support young people throughout the pandemic.”
Why has he resigned?
Sir Kevan had asked the government for a support package worth £15bn, including 100 hours of teaching per pupil to make up for time lost as a result of the pandemic.
However, the Department for Education this week said that £1.4bn would be made available, adding that there would be a review in future which would be factored into the spending review.
The DfE’s programme includes £1 billion to support up to six million, 15-hour tutoring courses for disadvantaged pupils, as well as an expansion of the 16-19 tuition fund which will target subjects such as maths and English.
A further £400 million will go towards providing high-quality training for early years practitioners and school teachers to ensure children progress.
Sir Kevan said in a statement: “After the hardest of years, a comprehensive recovery plan – adequately funded and sustained over multiple years – would rebuild a stronger and fairer system.
“A half-hearted approach risks failing hundreds of thousands of pupils. The support announced by Government so far does not come close to meeting the scale of the challenge and is why I have no option but to resign from my post.”
He added that the package of support “falls far short of what is needed” as he warned that it is “too narrow, too small and will be delivered too slowly.”
“The average primary school will directly receive just £6,000 per year, equivalent to £22 per child. Not enough is being done to help vulnerable pupils, children in the early years or 16- to 19-year-olds,” Sir Kevan said.
What did his letter to Boris Johnson say?
Sir Kevan’s letter to Boris Johnson, sent yesterday (2 June) afternoon, is reproduced in full below:
“Dear Prime Minister, I am writing to offer my resignation as Education Recovery Commissioner.
“The pandemic has caused a huge disruption to the lives of England's children
“Since my appointment, I have spoken to hundreds of parents and over a thousand school leaders.
“Based on these meetings and my analysis of assessment data, I am in no doubt about the size of the recovery challenge we face.
“Without a comprehensive and urgent response, we risk failing hundreds of thousands of pupils.
“Prior to my appointment, you announced the ambition that lost learning caused by the pandemic be recovered within this Parliament.
“I applauded this goal and viewed the responsibility of advising the Government on its approach to securing an effective recovery for all children as the most important task of my professional life.
“When we met last week, I told you that I do not believe it will be possible to deliver a successful recovery without significantly greater support than the Government has, to date, indicated it intends to provide.
“I am concerned that the apparent savings offered by an incremental approach to recovery represent a false economy, as learning losses that are not addressed quickly are likely to compound.
“I believe our approach to recovery should also offer children opportunities to re-engage with sport, music and the rich range of activities that define a great education.
"I proposed extending school time as a way to provide this breadth, as well as to ensure that additional academic support does not cause existing enrichment activities to be squeezed out.
"The package of measures announced today provides valuable support, including important investment in teaching quality and tutoring. However, as I set out in my reports to you, I do not believe it is credible that a successful recovery can be achieved with a programme of support of this size.
"I hope you are able to allocate the additional resources that are likely to be needed for a successful recovery through the forthcoming Spending Review. I believe the settlement provided will define the international standing of England's education system for years to come."