Kevan Collins: Government ‘abdicating responsibility’ to lead recovery

The former recovery tsar also said tech could spark the biggest learning transformation since the Victorian era

The former recovery tsar also said tech could spark the biggest learning transformation since the Victorian era

17 Nov 2021, 14:54

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Sir Kevan Collins education recovery

The government has been accused of an “abdication of responsibility” over leading education recovery from the pandemic by its former tsar.

Sir Kevan Collins, who resigned as recovery commissioner earlier this year, launched a fresh attack on the government’s “feeble” response to Covid disruption today.

Speaking at a Schools & Academies Show event on “rediscovering the essence of education”, he warned against returning to pre-Covid norms in education.

He said “more fundamental” reforms were needed to focus on the “broader child”, non-academic outcomes and human “flourishing” rather than human capital.

He argued the system should move away from competition between pupils and a focus on pupils attending elite universities. Instead it should focus on tackling the “national shame” of so many pupils leaving without Level 2 skills in English and Maths, and tapping the potential of the disadvantaged.

‘No national endeavour’

But Collins argued the systemic response to the past 18 months had been “left to” schools.

“There’s an abdication of responsibility – there’s no national endeavour. We seem to be in the situation where it’s a bit like the famous phrase in the film ‘don’t mention the war’ – people are going to criticise you if you dare to claim that this disruption is part of an understanding of our situation.

“We have to understand what’s happened, the deep educational trauma that’s happened, if we’re going to rediscover and rebuild in a way I think our children deserve.”

School minister Baroness Barran had highlighted a £4.7 billion rise in core school funding over the next few years and recovery cash now reaching almost £5 billion.

But Collins warned: “We’re not spending enough money.”

He said his “takeaway” from the Budget was that the Treasury gave “more away in the reduction of duty on alcohol” than it allocated for education.

The Treasury said duty cuts would save consumers £3 billion. Only £1.8 billion was allocated for catch-up.

Ofsted fears and tech disruption

Asked about Ofsted, Collins said inspection “still has a place in our system”, but there is “something wrong with people being so frightened”.

The former Education Endownment Foundation chief executive struck a more positive tone on research and technology, arguing education had been “transformed” by evidence staff could base judgements on.

He also said new technology could “really disrupt our system”, transforming both learning and children’s and adult’s relationships in learning for the first time since the Victorian era. This “pretty much hasn’t changed for 150 years”, and use of technology so far remains “disappointing”.

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