“As this report starkly shows, the Covid pandemic has taken a terrible toll on many young people and continues to do so – not only in terms of learning, but in growing mental health challenges and lower rates of attendance. It is disadvantaged pupils who have been hit the hardest as they faced the greatest barriers in accessing remote learning during the pandemic and are now worst affected by the cost-of-living crisis.
“The link between poverty and educational attainment is clear and long-standing. Even before the pandemic, the rate of progress in closing the disadvantage gap moved at a snail’s pace because of the lack of a concerted government strategy and investment. We are now further away than ever from solving this problem.
“The committee’s assertion that the Department for Education does not appreciate the pressures facing schools is a damning indictment of the department’s failure to listen to the evidence that ASCL and a host of other organisations have repeatedly set out to ministers and officials in forensic detail. We fully support the committee’s recommendations that the department should set out a plan on how to reduce the disadvantage gap and absence rates, and that it should reconsider how the National Tutoring Programme can best support all pupils.
“It is essential that this is underpinned by improved funding to schools and colleges and action to address the worsening problem of teacher shortages.”