Significant, additional spending to help pupils to recover from lost learning will be required in order to avoid long-term damage to life chances and the nation’s finances, according to a new report from the Education Policy Institute.
Based on EPI analysis commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE), the new report models the long-run impact of the pandemic on future earnings, finding that pupils are each likely lose at least £16,000 in earnings, rising to £46,000 in a worst-case scenario if the government fails to intervene.
Taken together, it finds that losses to earnings would result in total lost national income running into the hundreds of billions – leading to substantial reductions in contributions to public services, and lower productivity and economic growth.
The new report highlights the regional disparities in the amount of learning lost by pupils – differences that are yet to be addressed under current education recovery plans.
Pupils in parts of the north of England and the Midlands have seen learning losses that are greater than those in other regions, while poorer pupils nationally have also lost more learning – findings that are likely to hinder the government’s “levelling up” agenda.
Prior to the pandemic, disadvantaged pupils were already 18 months of learning behind their more affluent peers by the time they took their GCSEs. The pandemic has now exacerbated this education gap, undoing a significant amount of the progress made in closing it over the last two decades.
Based on its latest modelling, the EPI report shows that an education recovery settlement of £13.5bn over three years will be required from the government to fully address learning losses and avoid cementing wide educational inequalities.
Per pupil, current education recovery spending in England amounts to around £310 per pupil – in comparison to the United States and the Netherlands, where plans amount to around £2,000 per pupil.
The report also considers the future of the National Tutoring Programme (NTP) – the government’s flagship programme for helping pupils to catch up with pandemic learning loss. Researchers identify a number of risks that could impede the success of NTP as it enters its second full year.
Download the full report here.
Pupils have lost a significant amount of learning – this is likely to have severe long-run consequences, and may hinder the government’s “levelling up” plans.
How much learning have pupils lost nationally?
- October 2020: EPI and Renaissance research for the DfE found that in the first half of last autumn term, average learning losses were 3.7 months in maths for primary pupils and 1.8 months in reading for primary pupils.
- December 2020: By the second half of the autumn term, these losses had temporarily recovered to 2.7 months in maths for primary pupils and 1.2 months in reading for primary pupils.
- March 2021: But by the second half of the spring term, primary pupil learning losses returned to a similar level as at the start of the autumn term, standing at an average loss of 3.5 months in maths and 2.2 months in reading.
What is the long-run impact of learning losses?
- Based on an estimated range of learning loss, this would result in total lost lifetime earnings of between 1 and 3%. In a central modelling scenario, this is likely to be at least £16,000 lost in earnings per pupil, but could range from £8,000 to £46,000 per pupil, depending on the extent of learning loss.
- These earnings losses would generate a total long-run cost of between £78bn and £463bn across the 10 million children in the education system in England. This range is likely to be a highly conservative estimate of the true long-run costs of lost learning.
Learning losses by region and pupil characteristics
- October 2020: in the first half of the autumn term, in primary maths, losses ranged from 2.0 months in the South West and 2.5 months in London, to 5.2 months in the North East and 5.8 months in Yorkshire and the Humber.
- December 2020: By the second half of the autumn term, average losses in maths for primary pupils ranged from 0.5 months in the South West and 0.9 months in London to 4.0 months in the North East and 5.3 months in Yorkshire and the Humber.
- Disadvantaged pupils: by October 2020, average learning losses for disadvantaged pupils (those on free school meals) were 4.3 months in primary maths. By December 2020, average losses for disadvantaged pupils recovered to 3.3 months in primary maths.
How much should the government spend on education recovery, and how should funding be allocated?
The level of funding required for pupils’ education recovery
- The government has committed £3.1bn for education recovery in England between 2020-21 and 2024-25 – around £310 per pupil in total. In stark contrast, education catch-up plans for the Netherlands (£2,100 per pupil) and US (£1,800 per pupil) are far larger and more ambitious.
- Based on expected levels of learning loss, and taking into account typical expenditure on schools, empirical evidence on the impact of additional spending on learning and the scale of interventions implemented in similar countries, an education recovery funding package of around £13.5bn will be required by the government.
How funding should be allocated
- Funding should be allocated through a dedicated grant which provides funding to all schools, but progressively more to those in the most disadvantaged parts of the country and also by the proportion of pupils eligible for the Pupil Premium.
- Recovery interventions in the £13.5bn package should include, among other policies, an increase and extension of the Pupil Premium; extended school hours; a new continuous professional development fund for teachers; an increase in funding for the Early Years Pupil Premium, and a new 16-19 Student Premium.
The fully-costed set of proposals can be read in the report on p.24.
The future of the National Tutoring Programme: risks and recommendations
- The National Tutoring Programme (NTP) is rooted in evidence and has the potential to support pupils, particularly the most disadvantaged, to catch up with their learning.
- But presently there are regional disparities in the NTP’s reach, with the take up of the ‘tuition partners’ element of the programme in the north of England far lower than the south (59% vs. up to 96%). This is concerning given the higher rates of disadvantage and learning loss in the north. To be effective for all pupils, the NTP must scale up the tuition partners element so that they can be accessed in “hard-to-reach” parts of the north and in coastal areas.
- However, any efforts to quickly scale up the NTP must not impede quality. The government must prioritise steady and successful implementation of the NTP over a low-cost, rapid roll-out, in order to maintain public confidence and ensure the longevity of the programme.
- The government currently subsidises tuition for pupils via the NTP – but many schools have still struggled with the cost. As government subsidies for the programme are gradually reduced over the coming years, it should ensure that affordability is not a barrier for schools, and support those schools with higher levels of disadvantage, who face greater costs.
Read our full findings and recommendations on the NTP on p.35 in the full report.
This report is supported by Pearson.
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