Blog: What does it cost to educate a child?

Date 8.06.2021

Yesterday (7 June 2021) the Government announced a £3bn recovery package for education; but is it enough? Julian Brown, Subject Leader in Education, gives his thoughts on the plans.


What does it cost to educate a child? How can the lost learning, which has been the result of the pandemic, be regained? Can it?

What value do we place on learning to read, developing friendships on the playground, learning about how living things grow or the multitude of skills and knowledge developed through education?

These questions are relevant to policymakers as we reflect on what has been an extremely challenging sixteen months for society and the education sector as a result of the pandemic. Anyone who has been working with schools and settings or with teachers and support staff during this pandemic, knows the pressures, challenges and obstacles that have arisen from the health crisis and subsequent limits on education provision.

We know that the pandemic has had a significant impact on children and young people’s learning and wellbeing as well as exacerbating some or the problems for parents, especially those who have children with Special Educational Needs.

Moreover, the impact on particular sectors, such as early years, which experienced more than 69,000 early years providers closing during the first lockdown, has raised concerns over the long-term impact this could have on child development, especially for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. We need to acknowledge, just as the pandemic has affected us differently depending on multiple factors, it has also affected children’s learning and wellbeing differently.

Undoubtedly any additional contribution to the education public purse is welcome by those working within the sector. Opportunities for individual tuition and targeted intervention do make a difference. Investment in these areas will be welcome provided there are the personnel, who are qualified and experienced to implement these interventions and the spaces within schools to provide the provision (as someone who has taught children in corridors knows, I know this is not always the case!). However, the specific details are not evident in the plan. An investment in professional development for educational professionals is welcome and it will strengthen the workforce over time, however, professional development requires long-term investment and recovering from this pandemic, educationally, will take years, not months.

Whether this investment is enough, can be answered by acknowledging the scale of the task and the views of the individual appointed to implement these plans. Sir Kevan Collins, appointed in February as the education recovery commissioner, resigned from his post citing the plan “falls short of what is needed”.

The amount being invested is minimal in comparison to investments in other areas, such as the £37bn in the test and trace system. We are only beginning to learn the impact the pandemic has had on education. Research and investment will be needed over the long-term to truly understand the implications and what actions we need to take collectively as a society.