28th March 2022

EPI responds to Schools White Paper proposals

Today [Monday 28 March] the government will launch its Schools White Paper, which includes several long-term goals to improve pupil outcomes and a series of measures and reforms intended to support their delivery.  

Commenting on the Schools White Paper proposals, Natalie Perera, Chief Executive of the Education Policy Institute (EPI) said: 

“The White Paper contains some bold aims, and a number of welcome measures, such as extra support for in-school mental health services and additional monitoring of children who are not in school.

“But it seems unlikely that many of these bold pledges will in practice be met. Since the pandemic started, children have fallen behind in their learning, and the data published so far shows that there has been little catch up for secondary pupils and much bigger losses for the disadvantaged and those in the so-called levelling up areas of the North and Midlands. Our analysis shows that the government’s catch-up programme is not well funded enough to make good these learning losses and get the disadvantage gap closing again.

“The government seems to be placing a lot of weight on all schools being in a ‘strong multi-academy trust’ by 2030, but it is clear from our research that academisation is no ‘silver bullet’ for improving school performance and there may simply not be enough capacity to absorb thousands of schools into the higher performing MATs. The 32.5 hour school week, which amounts to a 9am-3.30pm day, will not make much difference to most children.

David Laws, Executive Chairman of the Education Policy Institute (EPI), said:

“It is disappointing that there is no commitment to a really big reduction of the disadvantage gap between the poorest pupils and the rest, in the ambitions set for 2030.

“Disadvantaged children are already 18 months of learning behind other children by the time they take their GCSEs, and this gap had stopped closing before the pandemic and is now significantly wider.

“The government continues to talk of ‘levelling up opportunity’, but over the last two years poor children and those living in the North and Midlands have fallen further behind in both absolute and relative terms.

“The very large recent rise in inflation is another threat to these plans – it is already significantly reducing the real value of the government’s education spending. Public sector pay is also lagging behind private sector pay, and this could cause real problems for teacher recruitment and retention over the next few years. This is a worry given the government plans rightly place a high priority on quality teaching.

“If the government wishes to meet the White Paper aims, it may well need a further education recovery package, targeted on the pupils, schools and local areas which have missed out most.”