Pupils should be given £30 catch-up voucher for every day missed due to Covid says Lib Dems

The vouchers could be spent on catch-up tutoring to help make up for lost learning, the voucher scheme would cost £3.6 million a week, based on the current rate of absences.

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Pupils should be given a £30 catch-up voucher for every day they miss school due to a Covid-related absence, the Liberal Democrats have said.

The party said the move would help parents of both primary and secondary school-aged pupils decide for themselves how best to assist their children in recovering from time spent out of the classroom as a result of the pandemic.

The Lib Dems said the voucher scheme would cost £3.6 million a week, based on the current rate of absences.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey

That would amount to little more than 1% of the Government’s initial £350 million National Tutoring Programme catch-up fund, party officials said.

The call comes after education leaders said the high rate of staff absences at present due to the Omicron variant wave meant schools could be forced to return to remote learning.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has said any return to remote learning should “only be on a short-term measure”.

Munira Wilson, the Lib Dem education spokeswoman, said: “The Omicron variant is without doubt going to wreak havoc as our schools return this week and the Government has left schools woefully underprepared to deal with the chaos this will cause pupils, parents and teachers alike.

“No child should be left behind as we enter a time of unprecedented staff absences and case rates.

“Funding catch-up vouchers would empower parents to restore their children’s education, which the Conservatives have demonstrated time and again is not their priority.

“From a botched catch-up package to a complete failure on getting air purifiers into schools, the Government must act radically so children are given the opportunity to catch up on the education they are missing due to the Conservatives’ incompetence.”

The vouchers could be spent on catch-up tutoring to make up for lost learning, with schools being able to advise parents on what would most benefit their children, the party said.

The Lib Dems cited research from the Education Policy Institute which they said showed, based on an estimated range of learning loss, it could result in total lost lifetime earnings of between 1-3%, likely to be at least £16,000 lost in earnings per pupil.

Such earnings losses would generate a total long-run cost of between £78 billion and £463 billion across the 10 million children in the education system in England, according to the institute’s figures.