The education recovery commissioner for England, Sir Kevan Collins, has resigned in a row over the lack of “credible” Covid catch-up funding.
Sir Kevan took on the role as catch-up tsar in February to develop a long-term plan to help pupils make up for lost learning during the pandemic.
But on Wednesday he stepped down saying the funding for the plan “falls far short of what is needed”.
Head teachers labelled the £1.4bn cash over three years as a “damp squib”.
The Education Policy Institute had calculated that a catch-up funding recovery plan would need £13.5bn – and Sir Kevan was reported as having put forward plans costing £15bn.
The government’s proposal represents £50 per pupil per year – and Sir Kevan wrote to the prime minister saying: “I do not believe it is credible that a successful recovery can be achieved with a programme of support of this size.”
A Downing Street spokesman said: “The prime minister is hugely grateful to Sir Kevan for his work in helping pupils catch up and recover from the effects of the pandemic.
“The government will continue to focus on education recovery and making sure no child is left behind with their learning, with over £3bn committed for catch up so far.”
The resignation statement from Sir Kevan, reported by The TES, said: “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.”
His resignation letter to Boris Johnson said: “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.”
Earlier on Wednesday, the government announced an extra £1.4bn over three years for education recovery, in addition to the £1.7bn already announced.
This included £1bn for 100 million hours of tutoring, aimed at disadvantaged pupils, and £250m for teacher training and development.
But the plans are much more limited than the £13.5bn that the Education Policy Institute (EPI) think tank had calculated would be required to catch up on lessons disrupted by the pandemic.
Head teachers said they were “hugely disappointed” by the £1.4bn after expectations of a much bigger set of proposals.
Mr Johnson reassured schools and parents that more funding would be “coming down the track”.
Sir Kevan had been responsible for overseeing efforts to help schools in England recover from the disruption of the pandemic and lockdowns, which has seen pupils studying from home and exams cancelled over two academic years.
He had reportedly called for funding for 100 extra hours of teaching per pupil – including for sports, music and the arts.
But any extra teaching time, or longer school days, will now depend on getting further funding from the spending review.
In a statement, Sir Kevan said a “sustained and comprehensive programme of support” would be needed and that “more will be needed to meet the scale of the challenge”.
‘Sad but not surprised’
Geoff Barton, head of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We are sad but not surprised that Sir Kevan Collins is reported to be standing down as education recovery commissioner following the government’s announcement of a recovery package which clearly falls a long way short of what he had in mind.
“We know that Sir Kevan had much bolder and broader plans but that these required substantially more investment than the government was willing to provide.
“He’s tried his hardest on behalf of children and young people, but, in the final analysis, the political will just wasn’t there to support him.”
Before taking up his post as tsar, Sir Kevan was head of the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), which examines evidence for what works in education.
As EEF chief executive, he ran an organisation that examined ideas for raising achievement, with the aim of breaking the link between deprivation and poor outcomes in school.
Sir Kevan has had a long career in education; he is a former teacher who went on to be the director of children’s services and chief executive of Tower Hamlets, east London.