A new report by the Education Policy Institute (EPI), finds that a three-year funding package totalling £13.5bn will be required by the government to reverse the damage to pupils’ learning as a result of the pandemic.

The analysis, which models the impact of lost learning and sets out a series of fully costed, evidence-based proposals, shows that significant investment will be required to deliver on the Prime Minister’s promise to the nation that “no child is left behind.”

The government has stated that education recovery is central to its “build back better” agenda, and has already committed £1.7bn in short-term catch-up funding to support pupils in England in the wake of the biggest post-war disruption to the education system. A comprehensive, long-term education recovery plan is expected to be unveiled soon.

The EPI report draws on its latest research on lost learning carried out for the Department for Education (DfE), along with economic modelling on the long-run impact of the pandemic on young people’s employment and life chances, and a review of the most effective policies in supporting pupils’ attainment and wellbeing.

To reverse months of lost learning and prevent total lost future earnings for pupils running into the tens of billions, the research shows that the government will need to put in place an ambitious, multi-year programme of support.

Policies which EPI is calling on the government to implement include extended school hours for social and academic activities, additional Pupil Premium funding, summer wellbeing programmes, more incentives for teachers to work in “challenging areas”, further mental health support in schools and an option for some pupils to retake the year.  

The series of education interventions total £13.5bn over the course of this Parliament and taken together, would seek to reverse the lost learning seen by pupils since March 2020. The package compares with the DfE’s annual schools budget for England of £48bn.

While regaining months of lost academic progress must be the immediate priority, the report argues that if implemented effectively, such interventions should be retained beyond the three-year period to address pre-existing inequalities in education and improve outcomes.

EPI research shows that prior to the pandemic, disadvantaged pupils were already 18 months of learning behind their more affluent peers by the time they took their GCSEs – with that attainment gap already starting to widen.  

The retention of these policies should also be met with further investment beyond schools – in wider children’s services and mental health services; supported by an urgent child poverty strategy.

You can read the full report here.



Key findings and recommendations


How much learning have pupils lost and what will the long-run impact be?

The evidence on pupil learning loss, the impact on future earnings if left unaddressed and the level of remedial funding required.

  • Analysis of pupil learning loss by EPI and Renaissance Learning for the Department for Education, 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 school closures before Christmas and in early 2021, losses are likely to have increased further.
  • Based on an estimated range of pupil learning loss, this would result in total lost lifetime earnings for pupils of between 1 and 3.4%, equating to £8,000 and £50,000 in lost earnings per pupil. This would generate a total long-run cost between £62bn and £420bn across the 8 million school children in England. This range is likely to be a highly conservative estimate of the true long-run costs of lost learning.
  • Based on expected levels of learning loss, and taking into account the 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.  


Education recovery in schools: 10 proposals to prevent pupils from being left behind

The following activities and policies, which are most likely to be effective in supporting pupils in primary and secondary schools, should be included in the forthcoming recovery plans:

  • Extended school hours: schools should be open before and after normal school hours for pupils to engage in a range of programmes, including sports clubs, social activities, games, pastoral support and academic programmes. (3-year cost: £3.2bn).
  • Summer wellbeing programmes: summer programmes should have an academic component whilst also providing an opportunity for young people to socialise through sports and other activities. The government has already made £200m available for 2021 “summer schools”, but these are mostly targeted at those entering year 7. The programme should be open to all pupils aged 5 to 16. (3-year cost: £2bn).
  • One-to-one and small group tuition: the government currently provides one-to-one and small group tuition via the National Tutoring Programme (NTP). It should continue to fund tuition over the next three years, either through the NTP or directly through schools themselves – depending on the success of the NTP over the next year. (£340m cost in total for 2022-23 and 2023-24)
  • An increase and extension of the Pupil Premium: The Pupil Premium should be increased to reflect the likely widening of the gap between poorer pupils and their peers following the pandemic. It should also be extended to those on a Child Protection Plan (CPP), given these pupils are more educationally disadvantaged. (3-year cost of increase: £720m. 3-year cost to extend to CPP: £390m).
  • Greater incentives for teachers to work in “challenging areas”: teacher quality is the most important in-school driver of pupil outcomes. Extra payments given to teachers to work in “challenging areas” should be doubled to £2,000 per year, extended to existing teachers, and focused on the poorest 20-25% of schools. (3-year cost: £135m).
  • Extra funding for schools to hire a mental health support worker: given that young people’s mental health has deteriorated over the last year, and the link between wellbeing and attainment, schools should be given additional, ringed-fenced funding to hire a support worker. This could be an educational psychologist, pastoral worker, or counsellor. Current plans do not guarantee immediate or sufficient support for all schools (3-year cost: £1.5bn).
  • New guidance to schools to support better wellbeing and inclusion: clear guidance should be given to schools to improve understanding of children’s complex wellbeing needs and the need to avoid exclusions following the pandemic. (3-year cost: neutral).
  • Softer accountability measures for schools in 2021-22: Ofsted should refrain from a “business as usual” approach and instead focus inspection on how well schools are supporting pupils following the pandemic. Given the changes to exam grades, school performance tables should continue to be suspended for the 2022 cohort.
  • A new continuous professional development (CPD) fund for teachers: high-quality CPD for teachers has been shown to have a significant effect on pupil attainment. The government should create a new and distinct CPD fund for all teachers which focuses on delivering high-quality support programmes with greater transparency and accountability. (3-year cost: £1.2bn).
  • Allow pupils to repeat a year if appropriate: to tackle some extreme individual cases of learning loss, the government should introduce a new right for pupils to repeat a year of education, where this is supported by their parent or parents. This would only apply to a very small minority of pupils. (2-year cost: £180m).


Recovery for younger children: early years education

Schools alone should not be left to provide support – the recovery must also include support for younger children in the early years – where high quality education and care can play a decisive role. The following policies should be included:

  • Increase funding for the Early Years Pupil Premium: bringing it up to the same rate as primary aged pupils. (3-year cost: £400m).
  • Fund a pilot study into the effect of higher quality early years education on young children: government funding for early years providers is below the OECD average. A pilot would provide evidence on the impact of high-quality provision funded at a higher rate than what is currently provided. (3-year cost: £83m).


Recovery for older students: 16-19 education

16-19 education already faced severe challenges prior to the pandemic, seeing the largest real-terms loss of funding in any phase of education since 2010/11. The following policies for colleges, sixth forms and those studying apprenticeships will be required to reverse the impact of the pandemic:

  • Extend the 16-19 Tuition Fund for a further two years (2-year cost: £204m).
  • Provide funding to extend 16-19 courses for an additional year where there is demand (3-year cost: £990m).
  • Fund post-16 places in Alternative Provision (3-year cost: £263m).
  • Fund a new 16-19 Student Premium (3-year cost: £740m).
  • Target subsidies towards younger apprentices aged 18-24 (3-year cost: neutral).


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.