UK government's education recovery plan faces criticism from school leaders, teacher unions

2021-06-03 11:07:42Xinhua Editor : Wang Yifan ECNS App Download
Special: Battle Against Novel Coronavirus

The British government on Wednesday unveiled a 1.4-billion-pound (about 2.0-billion-U.S.-dollar) plan to boost education recovery, which faced immediate criticism from school leaders and teacher unions for being "inadequate".

Of the total 1.4 billion pounds to be invested, 1 billion pounds (about 1.4 billion dollars) will be used to support up to 6 million, 15-hour tutoring courses for disadvantaged school children, said the government.

Meanwhile, 400 million pounds (about 566 million dollars) will help give early years practitioners and 500,000 school teachers across the country training and support, and schools and colleges will be funded to give some year 13 students the option to repeat their final year.

According to the plan, children and young people across England will be offered up to 100 million hours of free tuition to help them catch up on learning lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plan has built on the 1.7 billion pounds (about 2.4 billion dollars) already announced to help children catch up, bringing total investment to over 3 billion pounds (about 4.2 billion dollars).

"This is the third major package of catch-up funding in 12 months and demonstrates that we are taking a long-term, evidence-based approach to help children of all ages," said British Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.

However, education sectors in the country are complaining the announced spend is only about a tenth of the 15 billion pounds (about 21 billion dollars) total understood to have been recommended by Kevan Collins, who was appointed by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson as adviser in February to shape bold recovery ideas for England's schools.

In response, the education recovery commissioner for England, Kevan Collins, on Wednesday resigned in a row over the catch-up funding, saying that the funding for the plan "falls far short of what is needed".

Kevan, who 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, said in his resignation statement that "a half-hearted approach risks failing hundreds of thousands of pupils," according to the BBC.

"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," said the statement.

He had called for 15 billion pounds (about 21.26 billion dollars) of funding and 100 extra hours of teaching per pupil, including for sports, music and the arts, the BBC reported.

Earlier Wednesday, the National Education Union called the catch-up plan "inadequate and incomplete".

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: "Rarely has so much been promised and so little delivered."

The amount promised showed that the British government "does not understand, nor does it appreciate, the essential foundation laid by education for the nation's economic recovery", she added.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) called the investment "paltry" when compared with plans in other countries and with the amount spent on supporting businesses.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the governmental package was "dispiriting".

"It's pretty pitiful," he told Sky News.

On Feb. 22, Johnson announced his long-anticipated "roadmap" exiting the lockdown. The reopening of schools in England on March 8 was the first part of the four-step plan, which Johnson said was designed to be "cautious but irreversible".

Experts have warned that coronavirus may continue to evolve for years to come, and eventually it is likely current vaccines will fail to protect against transmission, infection, or even against disease caused by newer variants.

To bring life back to normal, countries such as Britain, China, Germany, Russia and the United States have been racing against time to roll out coronavirus vaccines.

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