catch-up

The government stands accused of “robbing Peter to pay Paul” after finally admitting that a £705 million Covid catch-up package is not all new money.

Ministers announced last month that they would spend an additional £405 million on top of £300 million announced in January for a range of measures to help address lost learning.

Instead of robbing Peter to pay Paul in the education budget, the government needs to produce a long term plan for school funding

But although “over half” of the additional £405 million is new money, the Department for Education has finally admitted the rest will come from elsewhere in its budget.

Shadow schools minister Wes Streeting told Schools Week: “Instead of robbing Peter to pay Paul in the education budget, the government needs to produce a long term plan for school funding to undo a decade of cuts that have left schools with less funding in real terms than they had when Labour left office more than a decade ago.”

The £705 million for catch-up will fund a £302 million Covid recovery premium for schools, £200 million for secondary schools to run summer school activities and £203 million to expand the National Tutoring Programme, 16 to 19 tuition fund and to provide early years support.

The DfE has repeatedly refused to say whether all of the money was new funding from the Treasury.

Streeting child poverty

Wes Streeting

But in a written answer to a question from Streeting, schools minister Nick Gibb confirmed some of the cash was coming from the DfE’s existing budgets.

On the £405 million announced last month, Gibb said: “While over half of this is new funding, the department has contributed towards the cost of this package through reprioritising funding from within the department’s existing budgets.”

The money contributed by the DfE “includes funding from unallocated headroom where adjustments to forecasts have enabled us to release additional resources”, Gibb said.

“Where we have identified additional resources, it is right that we have prioritised them to the front line.”

Gibb said the £300 million announced in January was “additional funding” from the treasury.