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Kevan Collins resigns over education recovery plan and Home Office ignore calls to close Napier Barracks

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What do you get if you subtract £1.4bn from £15bn?

The answer? The resignation of the man appointed by the government as its education recovery tsar, Kevan Collins.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson. Photo: Wilmington Academy/Brandon Bail
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson. Photo: Wilmington Academy/Brandon Bail

He quit the role this week after failing to persuade the Prime Minister and perhaps more importantly the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the price tag for helping students recover the ground they had lost during lockdown was much higher than they were prepared to sign a cheque for.

Instead it was left to the hapless education secretary Gavin Williamson to try and gloss over the row with announcements of funding for tutoring those pupils who have fallen behind during the pandemic.

Even that failed to quell the disquiet, with the Education Policy Institute calculating that the funding really only amounted to about £50 per child.

Sir Kevin pointedly referred to the need for greater investment in areas like the north of England, which is of course where the Conservatives are investing heavily to shore up support in those all-important red wall constituencies that they snaffled from Labour at the election.

Why is it so hard for the Conservatives to properly grasp that investing in children is a win-win situation?

'It was left to the hapless education secretary Gavin Williamson to try and gloss over the row'

Have you ever met a parent who would not support ploughing more money into schools? Who would be underwhelmed by a government prepared to lay on additional tutoring or catch-up classes?

Yet when confronted by an appraisal of the situation and a programme to address the issue of learning loss by the man appointed to do just that, the Prime Minister fails to be impressed.

And to rub it in, he offers a tenth of the money that his own adviser says is necessary to bring children up to the grade they should be at.

It was understandable that Sir Kevin felt like he’d been slapped in the face with a cold fish and decided to step away from the job he had taken up only a few months ago.

To accept a funding commitment that represented a fraction of what he thought was needed, along with that old political sorcery of conjuring up some money down the line, was hardly an attractive proposition.

Meanwhile, Kent County Council is expected to set out shortly its progress on its own recovery programme it launched in March.

The ‘Reconnect’ initiative aims to tackle many of the problems identified nationally like learning loss but there hasn’t been a lot of information in the public domain to date.

Asylum seekers

Home secretary Priti Patel has been fairly uncompromising in her attitude to the use of the former Napier Barracks in Folkestone to house those seeking asylum.

Even in the face of what was a fairly damning legal ruling this week, the Home Office has dug its heels in and seems unlikely to pay much attention to the growing clamour to close the barracks and find accommodation elsewhere.

This hard ball politics is deliberate: the government wants to avoid creating the impression that it is being soft on those who arrive in the UK to claim asylum.

Council tax

Councils in Kent have been left with a huge deficit
Councils in Kent have been left with a huge deficit

Some sleight of hand by the number crunchers in the Treasury. A scheme is in place to ensure councils aren’t out of pocket when it comes to council tax shortfalls related to those unable to pay their bills during the pandemic.

The scheme on the surface of things seems to be fair. That is until you get to the small print, which reveals that councils will be able to recover only 75% of the money they have missed through unpaid council tax. What is more, the arrangements provide for councils to spread the deficit over three years.

As a county council budget report puts it: “Only irrecoverable losses will be eligible for the additional grant, estimated to amount to £10m of the £12.3m. The remainder of the estimated deficit will have to be borne by the council’s along with the remaining 25% of irrecoverable losses.”

As they say, terms and conditions apply.

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