Education Policies 2015-2023 Section Three

Russell Haggar

Site Owner


This document is divided into Three Sections and Fourteen Parts as indicated below

Section One

  • Part One: Introduction and Summary Conclusions
  • Part Two Examination Results
  • Part Three: Trends in Total Government Spending on Education
  • Part Four:  Academies
  • Part Five: Free Schools


Section Two

  • Part Six: Grammar schools
  • Part Seven: Private schools
  • Part Eight: The Schools Admission Code
  • Part Nine: OFSTED Inspections
  • Part Ten: Higher Education


Section Three

  • Part Eleven: Poverty and Free School Meal Eligibility
  • Part Twelve: The effects of COVID 19 and the Education Recovery Programme
  • Part Thirteen: The 2022 Education White Paper
  • Part Fourteen:  Conclusions:  Education Policies and Social Mobility


  • Part Eleven: Poverty and Free School Meal Eligibility

Click here and follow the relevant links to see differences in educational achievement as between pupils eligible and ineligible for free schools 2018/19- 2022/23

Click here for a critical assessment of recent Social Security policies [John Harris: Guardian June 1st 2022]

Click here for numbers eligible for FSM

In recent years the numbers of pupils eligible for free school meals has increased and this was particularly the case during the COVID 10 Pandemic. Traditionally pupils have been eligible for free school meals in term time only and this was initially the case during the pandemic but as a result of political pressure from various charities spearheaded by Mr Marcus Rashford the UK government agreed to extend free school meals eligibility to the school  Summer holidays. [ Click here  for further details]

Since many pupils eligible for free school meals were absent from school during lock down and at other times during the pandemic it was necessary to make special arrangements for the delivery of free school meals. Thus schools might arrange for the delivery of free school meals to pupils’ homes; pupils who were staying at home might in some cases return to school to eat their free school meals or o pick up packed lunches;  parents might be provided with vouchers [ worth £15 per week] to purchase food for their children from supermarkets participating in the vouchers scheme.

However it was shown that especially in the early stages of the pandemic many pupils who were eligible for free school meals did not in fact receive them; it was argued that it was dangerous for pupils to return to school to receive their free school meals and for parents to visit the schools to pick up free school meals for their children; and it was argued that although the Government’s preferred option was for  pupils to receive pack lunches rather than vouchers the quality of the pack lunches received was unsatisfactory  and it was suggested that some companies were profiting excessively from their involvement in the scheme. Due to this adverse criticism  [ in which Mr Marcus Rashford again played a significant role]  the Government agreed to prioritise the increased use of the voucher system and also to monitor the quality of delivered free school meals more carefully.

Click here  for the involvement of Marcus Rashford in the successful campaign to make free school meals available during the Summer Holidays of 2020

Click here and here  for discussion of the inadequacy of food parcels provided as free school meals as a result of which the Department for Education dropped its “food parcel first” policy.

Click here for a BBC item providing general information on the availability of free school meals during lockdown and on provision during the Summer of 2021

Click here for claims that the government scheme designed to provide for free school meals during the Summer of 2021 was in fact inadequate.

Click here  for a BBC documentary on Marcus Rashford

Click here and scroll to pages 33=43 for a Parliamentary Research Briefing on School Meals during The Coronavirus Pandemic


  • Part Twelve: The effects of COVID 19 and the Education Recovery Programme

The UK experienced very serious waves of COVID pandemic infection  in the Spring of 2020 and the Winter of 2021 and there were 3 National Lockdowns in April -June 2020, November- December 2020 and January- April 2021. Schools were closed  for pupils other than the children of key workers  and vulnerable children and schooling was also restricted to specific year groups and classes at other times. For example in June and July 2021  very large numbers of pupils were obliged to self-isolate due to contacts with infected people. Click here for information.

Schools responded with the provision of resources for home schooling including the teaching packs , laptops  and lessons delivered online  and also remained open for some pupils during the holidays but it is clear that pupils’ learning was restricted in this situation.

It is also agreed that some schools were more effective than others in their provision of home schooling resources and that some parents were better able than others to support their children and that consequently the learning of more socially disadvantaged pupils was affected particularly adversely. Further information is provided via the following sources.

Click here for covid and educational inequality

 Click here for a BBC item on the education situation at the time of lock down in January 2021.

Click here for laptop availability as of January 2021. This item from the Sutton Trust illustrates that affluent pupils were much more likely than others to have access to a home laptop. In January 2021 the Government announced plans to increase laptop availability significantly.

Click here and here  and    Click here and   here for Guardian articles and here for BBC coverage of the effects of Covid on pupil progress and  levels of educational inequality

You may also click here for an excellent article by Professor Lee Elliot Major in which he outlines the ways in which the pandemic has exacerbated the inequalities of educational opportunity which have always existed within the UK education system. This article could provide a very useful basis for class discussion. Professor Major’s concerns are reiterated in a recent Sutton Trust Report as reported in this item from the BBC.

Click here for a detailed Sutton Trust Survey on COVID from January 2021

Click here for the Sutton Trust Report [July 2021] on A Levels and University Access 2021.

Click here for all of Sutton trust coronavirus research

Click Here for a detailed Parliamentary Report and  here for an  ONS survey


The Government’s Education Recovery Programme

In June 2020 the Government announced the introduction of a universal catch up premium  of £650 million which would be allocated directly to schools and a National Tutoring Programme worth £350 million. These initiatives were to come into operation in October 2021. Additional funding was provided in February 2021, June 2021 and October 2021 by which time the Government would have allocated a total of £4.9 billion  to various catch up initiatives. ]Details of these financial  initiatives may be found in paragraphs 20-21 of the Education Select Committee Report entitled Is the Catch Up Programme fit for purpose? [March 10th 2022]

In the first Year the National Tutoring Programme was to be run by the Education Endowment Federation in conjunction with 4 other charities [The Sutton Trust, NESTA, Impetus and Teach First]. It would contain two pillars whereby schools were to contact the EEF and other charities which would then allocate tutors and/or mentors chosen from their lists of accredited providers who would then deliver tutoring and/or mentoring on a one to one or small group basis to pupils whom the schools deemed to be socially disadvantaged and in need of help. Click here  for criticism of the scheme when it was being run by EEF and related charities.

In February 2021 the UK Government announced the appointment of the educationalist Sir Kevan Collins to oversee an education recovery programme to offset the effects of COVID 18. Discussions would now continue within government as to the scope and nature of the recovery plan required but the EPI calculated in May 2021 that £13.5 bn over 3 years would be necessary to help students to catch up. By this time the government had already provided £1.7 bn for catch up support but in June 2021 the Prime minister announced a Covid Recovery package of £ 1.4 bn over three years which amounted to an additional £50 per pupil per year although “Tutoring ,often in small groups will be targeted at the pupils is considered most in need of support, particularly the disadvantaged and will not be available to all pupils”[BBC]

Clearly the scale of the programme was much more limited than had been suggested by the EPI and lower also than had provided in other countries. Thus, although international comparisons must be treated with care it was noted that the catch up funding in England including earlier announcements was worth £310 per pupil over 3 years compared with £1600 in the USA and £2500 in the Netherlands. The UK government’s plans therefore attracted considerable criticism and Sir Kevan Collins, who was reported as having put forward plans costing £15bn over three years, resigned from his post citing the inadequacy of the UK Governments plans. For additional coverage of Sir Kevan Collins’ resignation  from the Guardian  click here  and for subsequent criticisms reported by Schools Week of  Sir Kevan Collin’ criticisms of government education policies  Click here

[In June 2021 it was announced that the examinable content of GCSRE and GCE A Level subject specifications would be reduced to compensate for lost learning time and that students would get some advanced notice of the topics which would [and would not] be examined in the 2022 examinations. Click here for Guardian coverage.]

The NTP contract was again put out to tender for the academic year 2021-22 and the EEF set up a new charity, the National Tutoring Foundation [NTF] under the leadership of Christine Gilbert, a former Head of OFSTED to bid for the new contract. However, when the NTF bid failed and the contract was won by the Randstad organisation the NTF disbanded, Randstad is a Dutch multinational company with no previous experience of providing educational services. However, it was agreed that Teach First which had originally assisted the EEF would also assist Randstad with the delivery of the NTP. Nevertheless, it was claimed that Randstad had won the contract because it had significantly undercut other bidders and the criticism of the NTP which had already arisen in 2020-21 now began to intensify.

In particular, the leaders of many schools argued that Randstad’s booking procedures were over- complicated and that some of its tutors and mentors did not reach required standards such that the school leaders preferred to employ their own teachers and mentors directly rather than via Randstad and the Government did respond with the addition of a 3rd pillar of the NTP which would enable schools to do so.

However, in March 2022 the House of Commons Select Committee on Education produced a highly critical report of the NTP in which it was suggested that if matters did not improve the contract with Randstad should be discontinued scrapped and the Secretary of State for Education Nadhim Zahawi responded by increasing the availability of funds for teachers to organise employment of their own teachers /mentors directly. Finally, the DFE announced that in 2022/2023 the contract with Randstad would indeed be cancelled and that discussion were now underway to determine the future development of the NTP. Click here for a summary of the Education Select Committee Report and Click here for  BBC coverage of the Report: ” Covid pandemic fuels deepening education inequalities in England, say MPs” [BBC March 11th 2022.]

For Further information:

Click here and here and here and here and here and here and here for intensifying criticism of the National tutoring programme

Click here  ‘Failing on all measures’ – how the Government’s flagship National Tutoring Programme ran into trouble [Independent February 12th 2022] 

Click here  for “Government axes outsourcing firm from England tutoring scheme” [Guardian 31st March 2022]

Click here  for ” Covid Tutoring cash to go straight to English schools in shake up” [BBC 31st March 2022]

Click here for DFE press release  and Click here for numbers which illustrate the relative numerical significance of the three pillars

Click here and here and here  for links which emphasise the role of privatisation in the development of the National Tutoring Programme

[In June 2021 it was announced that the examinable content of GCSE and GCE A Level subject specifications would be reduced to compensate for lost learning time and that students would get some advanced notice of the topics which would [and would not ] be examined in the 2022 examinations. Click here for Guardian coverage.]

Click here for ongoing problems with the School Recovery Plan

Click here for Guardian coverage of NFER Report on National Tutoring Programme [June 2021 HFER

Click here for Guardian coverage of Ofsted investigation of National Tutoring Programme [October 2022]

Click here for A BBC item on the National Tutoring Programme [April 2023]

However click here for research from the Sutton Trust which indicates  that the National Tutoring Programme has succeeded in  narrowing the gap in accessibility to tutoring as between pupils from professional and working class families. Click here for Guardian coverage of this research.

However perhaps the key conclusions are to be found in the Public Accounts Committee Report of June 2023


The Public Accounts Committee reported on the education recovery programme for schools in June 2023.  It noted that due to the Covid pandemic the increase in the deprivation index for Key Stage 2 pupils was so large that it had more than offset the reduction in the deprivation index that had occurred in the 10 years prior to 2019. The report’s authors also stated that “We are alarmed that the Department believes that it could take a decade or more to return the disadvantage gap to pre=pandemic levels.” This is perhaps even more alarming when one recalls this finding reported by the BBC prior to the pandemic that even though the deprivation index was falling at the time it would take more than 70 years to close the deprivation gap completely if progress continued at its then current rate.


For further details of the educational recovery strategy:

  • Click here for House of Commons Research Briefing: Measures to support education recovery 2021.
  • Click here for House of Commons Research Briefing Coronavirus and Schools 2022.
  • Click here for National Tutoring Programme Guidance [updated 7th August 2023.
  • Click here for Covid and social mobility massive detail from Cosmo Briefing August 2023.
  • Click here and here for alternative future proposals


  • Part Thirteen: The 2022 Education White Paper

In the original version of these notes, I wrote a long part on the 2022 Education White Paper. I have retained this information although this White Paper was scrapped In December 2022

Successive UK governments have been attempting to reduce regional disparities in incomes. life expectancy, employment opportunities, transport facilities and welfare services for about 100 years but despite myriad government policies serious regional inequalities remain and if anything, have been exacerbated in recent years as a result of the deindustrialisation of the UK which has seen the decline of manufacturing in the North and the Midlands, and the growth of service industries located especially in the South East of England.

The Conservative Government has responded with a wide ranging Levelling up agenda designed to reduce regional disparities and published a Levelling Up White Paper in February 2002 which among many other things signalled some of the educational reforms which were outlined in more detail in the Education White Paper of March 2022.

Click here for Catch up lessons

Click here for National Tutoring Programme

Click here for National Tutoring Programme

Click here and here for comments from Sir Kevan Collins

Click here for a summary of the Levelling Up white paper

Click here for the full  2022 Education White Paper and click here for a summary of its main provisions . Click here for a House of Commons Library Research Briefing on the March 2022 Education white paper

The white paper included the following main provisions

  1. A target that by 2030 90% of primary school children should leave primary school having reached the expected standards in reading, writing and mathematics compared with the 2019 figure of 65%
  2. The mean average of all GCSE grades is to rise from 4.5 to 5
  3. The white paper introduces a pledge to parents that all pupils falling behind in English and Mathematics would be guaranteed additional help.
  4. The length of the school day should be at least 32.5 hours
  5. The entry salary for teachers would be increased to £30,000 per year.
  6. Teacher training courses would be improved. Click here for information on the new National Institute of Teaching,
  7. All schools should either be members of or in the process of joining a strong Muti-Academy Trust and Local Authorities would be permitted to set up their own Multi-Academy Trusts
  8. The National Tutoring Programme will expand to provide 6 million tutoring courses by 2024
  9. 55 new Education Investment Areas would be set covering 1/3 of all local authority areas in England and all outside the South East. Click here for further information.
  10. There would be tighter monitoring and regulation of school attendance and absences.

The white paper has attracted some criticisms.

  1. It will be difficult in practice to meet the targets for improvement in KS 2 and GCSE results.
  2. There is little evidence to support the view that increased academisation will necessarily lead to improvement in examination results
  3. It is claimed that the pledge to provide additional help to children falling behind in English and Mathematics merely replicates what schools already do
  4. Critics have suggested  that if new free selective sixth form colleges are set up in the newly created Education Investment Areas this will actually be counterproductive as is indicated hereClick here for a detailed TES article on selective sixth form colleges by Grainne Hallahan.
  5. Although there are plans to improve teacher training, it would appear that there are serious disputes between the Government and some University Education Departments as to the delivery of teacher training courses.
  6. It is noted that spending on the Education Recovery Programme has been inadequate and that it is uncertain whether the new targets for the National Tutoring Programme will be met.
  7. The Education white paper forms part of the Government’s levelling up agenda but it should also be noted that the levelling up agenda does not address the significant social inequalities which exist even in the more prosperous regions of the UK.


For further information on the white paper:

Click here for BBC coverage

Click here and  Click here and here and here for Guardian  coverage

Click here For Schools Week coverage

Click here for Exploring The Schools Bill

Click here for EPI on The Schools Bill

Click here for TES on The Schools Bill

Click here for Guardian coverage  U turn on the Schools Bill

Click here for proposed amendments

Click here for House of Lords discussion

Click here for ITV coverage

The Scrapping of the 2022 Education White Paper

You may  Click here for Guardian coverage and here for BBC coverage of the scrapping of the Education Bill [December 2022] which left the exact future organisation of the academies system a little uncertain.  However a useful article published in Schools Week [February 2023] indicated “Schools Week understands the specific ambition from the white paper- that schools would either have joined or be joining a trust by 2020- has officially been dropped”  and that plans for local authorities to set up  their own academies have also been dropped. Currently 57.4% of primary schools and only 19.2% of secondary schools are local authority maintained schools and the current future of these schools is uncertain especially since a future change of government seems to be a distinct possibility,

  • Part Fourteen: Conclusions:  Education Policies and Social Mobility

In the discussion of social mobility, it is essential to distinguish between upward social mobility and downward social mobility, intra generational and intergenerational mobility and absolute and relative social mobility. These different types of social mobility are discussed here where it is also argued that since the Second World War there have been increases in absolute social mobility but little change in upward relative social mobility.

Click here for Social Mobility Commission State of the Nation Report 2021 which provides very useful information on current rates of social mobility [see especially pages 5-10.

Click here for Social Mobility-Past, Present and Future  by Andrew Eyles, Lee Eliot Major and Stephen Machin [Sutton Trist June 2022]

It is clearly impossible to assess the effects of recent education policies on social mobility since these effects will not become apparent for many years.  Optimistic supporters of overall government economic policies suggest that it will be possible to alleviate economic inequality and poverty which will increase the likelihood of upward social mobility. They claim further that the ongoing quasi-marketisation of education will improve overall efficiency of the education system and the educational prospects of poorer children and note that overall access to higher education has increased as has access to Higher Education for pupils eligible for free school meals. It is hoped also that it will be possible to improve the provision of vocational education and of apprenticeships so that, overall, the prospects for future upward social mobility are good.

However, critics, for several reasons are not convinced by these optimistic predictions.

  • The critics argue that although rates of absolute poverty have declined rates of relative poverty and income inequality remain high and that so long as this is the case rates of upward social mobility are unlikely to increase significantly.
  • There are strong arguments that the quasi-marketisation of education has benefited mainly middle class students who have been more likely than their working class peers to gain places at high performing schools.
  • It is claimed argue that the continued existence of grammar schools and. especially, of private schools inhibits equality of educational opportunity and hence prospects of social mobility.
  • It is believed that both vocational education and apprenticeship schemes require improvement.
  • Although access to Higher Education for students eligible for free school meals has increased it remains relatively low in general and particularly low in the case of access to high status universities.
  • It may well be that predicted future trends in government education spending will be insufficient to promote greater equality of educational opportunity.

Bearing in mind these criticisms it may be reasonable to conclude that the impact of current educational policies on prospects for upward social mobility should not be overstated.

Click here for a very informative article by Professor Ruth Lupton: Levelling up in education will demand some major changes in the education