20th April 2021

Analysis paper: preliminary research findings on education recovery

New analysis from the Education Policy Institute (EPI) shows that a multi-year funding package of £1015 billion is required to make up the lost learning seen by pupils as a result of the pandemic.  

Based on initial economic modelling of the impact of school closures, the research findings reveal the scale of the funding response needed from the government to deliver on its education catch up commitments for pupils in EnglandThe findings are released ahead of a final EPI report on education recovery to be published in May. 

The Prime Minister has stated that establishing a long-term plan for pupil catch up is “the biggest priority”, pledging that “no child is left behind as a result of the learning they have lost over the past year.” 

The government has provided short-term funding of £1.7bn to support pupils, but has recently begun formulating a more comprehensive education recovery settlementfollowing the appointment of its Education Recovery Commissioner, Sir Kevan Collins. This long-term catch-up package is likely to be published in the coming weeks. 

The latest analysis by EPI for the Department for Education shows many pupils had already experienced as much as 3 months of lost learning by the autumn term, with further losses likely following another period of remote learning in early 2021. 

The modelling set out in today’s paper shows that, without ambitious funding and interventions which tackle the scale of lost educationthere are likely to be severe long-run consequences for young people’s education, earnings and life chanceswhich would in turn bring damage to the wider economy 

EPI has published its preliminary analysis today in order to inform the government’s recovery plans over the coming weeks. A final EPI report, which sets out a precise long-term funding package and proposes a series of policy recommendations on catchup interventions, will be published in May.  

Alongside findings on the scale of the funding required in England, today’s preliminary analysis also outlines the level of catch-up funding required in Scotland, Wales and Northern IrelandThe analysis shows that £1bn-£1.5bn catch up funding will be required to support pupils in Scotland, £600m-£900m in Wales and £350m-£500m in Northern Ireland.


You can download the paper here.


Key findings


How much learning have pupils lost?  

  • The latest independent analysis on learning loss undertaken by EPI and Renaissance Learning for the Department for Education (DfE) – shows that by the first half of the 2020 autumn term, pupils in England had experienced losses of up to two months in reading (in primary and secondary schools), and up to three months in maths (in primary schools).  
  • Following another period of remote learning in early 2021, learning losses are likely to have increased furtherEPI analysis on this learning loss will also be published by the DfE later this year.  

The long-run impact of learning loss 

  • Based on an estimated range of learning loss, EPI analysis shows that this would result in total lost lifetime earnings for pupils of between 1% and 3.4%. 
  • This means that without significant policy action from the government, pupils could each see lost future income of between £8,000 and £50,000, equating to a total long-run cost between £60bn and £420bn across the 8 million school children in England.  
  • However, this range is likely to be a highly conservative estimate of the true long-run costs of lost learning, given further expected costs in the form of reduced productivity, investment and innovationthe wider positive role of schooling on young people’s health and development, and the increased likelihood of widening inequalities.  

    The level of funding required to mitigate learning losses and narrow the gap 

    • three-year education recovery funding package for England of £10bn-15bn will be required from the government. This estimate is based on expected levels of learning loss, accounting for typical expenditure on schoolsempirical evidence on the impact of additional spending on learning and the scale of interventions implemented in similar countries  
    • Funding should be targeted towards existing cost-effective, evidence-based interventions, centred around additional academic programmes, improved teacher quality and support, support for vulnerable pupils, and extra-curricular programmes.  
    • A recovery package must also encompass early years and post-16 education, as well as supporting children’s mental health and wellbeing.  
    • However, a funding package which merely seeks to reverse the damage of the pandemic will be insufficient to address deeper problems in education. Prior to the pandemic, disadvantaged pupils in England were already 18 months of learning behind their more affluent peers by the time they took their GCSEs. This gap had started to widen year before the onset of Covid-19. If the recovery package proves to be effective, then it should be sustained in the long-term to address pre-existing inequalities in education.  
    • The nature and scope and of the immediate recovery package required strongly supports the need for a multi-year settlement. To enable activities, interventions and plans to begin from September 2021, this multi-year package will need to be put in place soon, well before the coming Spending Review this Autumn. 

      Education recovery in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland 

      • Based on the UK government allocating £10-15bn for a multi-year education recovery package in England, this would result in additional funding through the Barnett formula of £1bn-£1.5bn for Scotland, £600m-£900m for Wales and £350m-£500m for Northern Ireland.  
      • These figures should be regarded as a benchmark to the level of funding required in each nation to prevent long-run economic costs arising from pandemic, though precise plans will need to be adapted to meet the specific education challenges in each country.

        This report is funded by Unbound. Unbound Philanthropy is an independent private grant-making foundation that seeks to contribute to a vibrant, welcoming society and an immigration system rooted in justice. We support pragmatic, innovative and responsive approaches to inclusion in the United States and United Kingdom to explore and advance what this looks like in practice.