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Covid-19: Pupils Receiving Free School Meals

Volume 690: debated on Monday 1 March 2021

What recent assessment he has made of the effect of the covid-19 outbreak on the attainment of pupils in receipt of free school meals. (912663)

Our education recovery package supports pupils most in need of catch-up support, including pupils receiving free school meals. The hon. Member asks about assessments we have conducted on the effects of the pandemic on the attainment of pupils. We have commissioned a study to assess the progress of pupils during this academic year, including groups such as pupils receiving free school meals. Initial findings from the study of 400,000 reading and maths assessments were published last week.

May I wish you and the House a happy Saint David’s day, Mr Speaker? The Secretary of State has said that no child’s prospects should be blighted by the pandemic and that he would not be timid in his responses, but earlier he sounded vague when he was asked for specifics. The schools Minister has had the job for a decade, so he should not need to outsource his answer to consultants. What specific interventions are being planned by Ministers to target those poor pupils for whom the pandemic has been an extinction level event for their education?

The hon. Member will not find anyone in this House more committed to closing the attainment gap caused by the pandemic than this team of Education Ministers and this Secretary of State. Last year, we committed £1 billion to help all students catch up on their lost education, including a £350 million national tutoring programme for the most disadvantaged and most in need. Last month, the Prime Minister announced a further £300 million of catch-up funding, and last week we increased it by a further £400 million. That is £1.7 billion in total committed to ensuring that no pupil will suffer long-term damage to their prospects as a result of the pandemic.