Labour pile pressure on Rishi Sunak and Gavin Williamson with bid to force Ministers to reveal messages about education catch-up package

The Government could be forced to reveal the messages between senior Ministers which led to it scaling down its proposed package to help children catch up on education lost during the pandemic.

Labour plans to trigger a binding vote in the Commons to force the Government to publish all communications - including emails and text messages - between the Treasury, Department for Education and Downing Street over the rejection of recommendations for children's pandemic recovery from Boris Johnson's expert education advisor Sir Kevan Collins.

Catch-up tsar Sir Kevan Collins walked away from his post earlier this month, issuing a stinging condemnation of the Government’s £1.4 billion recovery fund for children who have been affected by school closures due to the pandemic.

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Catch-up tsar Sir Kevan Collins walked away from his post earlier this month, issuing a stinging condemnation of the Government’s £1.4 billion recovery fund for children who have been affected by school closures due to the pandemic. Pic: Adobe stock

Following Sir Kevan’s criticism, in which he warned the support package “falls far short of what is needed”, and an outcry from senior Conservative MPs, Labour is hoping to pile further pressure on embattled Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.

It is understood Labour is likely to use a 'humble address' which has previously been used to call for papers from departments headed by a Secretary of State. Humble addresses can be debated, amended and voted on like any other motion and if agreed, are understood to be binding on the House.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak reportedly rejected proposals for a £15 billion learning recovery fund – 10 times more than that announced by the Education Secretary – and 100 extra hours of teaching per pupil as part of his recommendations for addressing lost learning.

Education leaders say this one-off investment is dwarfed by the estimated cost to the economy and the taxpayer of not supporting children’s recovery which could be up to £420bn.

Labour's Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Bridget Phillipson MP said: "There has been nothing but silence from the Chancellor since the government's own advisor resigned in protest at his recommendations being scrapped.

"And there has been no reassurance for parents and children as to how the government will help support their wellbeing and development after such a difficult 15 months for their education, mental health and development.

"At the very least, we all deserve to know the reasons why the Chancellor rejected such a vital plan for our children's future, and unless he U-turns soon, blocking this investment could see our economy take a hit of hundreds of billions of pounds. It’s the ultimate false economy.

"Labour’s innovative plans, informed by parents, teachers and children, will deliver not just a world-class education for all based on play and social development, but fulfilled and confident young people vital for our economic recovery.”

Labour has previously unveiled its own blueprint for a £14.7 billion catch-up plan, which would include breakfast clubs for every child, quality mental health support in all schools and small group tutoring for all who need it.

The Department for Education (DfE) has committed to a review of time spent in school, with findings due later in the year to inform the spending review.

And Scarborough born Mr Williamson - who was visiting Bradford yesterday - has suggested he is in favour of longer school days and that more investment for catch-up could be coming later.

A DfE spokeswoman said: “We have committed to an ambitious, and long-term education recovery plan, including an investment to date of over £3bn and a significant expansion of our tutoring programme, to support children and young people to make up for learning lost during the pandemic.”