MINISTERS are failing to commit enough funds to meet a "crisis in lost learning" as the cost of lost schooling due to the pandemic in Scotland is estimated to be at least £2.8 billion.

That is the warning of a study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies which says that the support for catch-up lessons for pupil being injected across the UK are just not enough.

In total governments across the UK have allocated "plainly inadequate" £1.5bn towards catch-up.

"This is tiny in comparison with the scale of the problem," the study warned.

The analysis references the Scottish Government saying it was investing an additional £100 million over the next two years to tackle the impact of lockdown and ensure children get the support they need.

It would be ring-fenced for the recruitment of approximately 850 extra teachers and around 200 additional support staff as local authorities plan for the re-opening of schools.

"The amount of extra resources for catch-up should be far higher," said the study. "To prevent inequalities from widening, the distribution also needs to be heavily skewed towards more disadvantaged pupils and/or pupils who have seen the biggest losses in educational progress."

The research estimated the costs of lost schooling based on the fact that they would lose at least half a year of normal in-person schooling if remote learning continued to February half term.

This would increase to two thirds of a year if schools were not to reopen as normal until Easter The research by Luke Sibieta, Research Fellow at the IFS, sets out to illustrate the scale of potential costs and risks, and the economic rationale for a "massive national plan to address this crisis"

Early evidence already suggested the loss of schooling is contributing to lower educational progress and skills, particularly for disadvantaged pupils, it said.

"The long-run costs of the pandemic will fall disproportionately on today’s children," warned the study. "Without significant remedial action, lost learning will translate into reduced productivity, lower incomes, lower tax revenues, higher inequality and potentially expensive social ills.

"The lack of urgency or national debate on how to address this problem is deeply worrying. The necessary responses are likely to be complex, hard and expensive.

"But the risks of spending 'too much' time or resources on this issue are far smaller than the risks of spending too little and letting lower skills and wider inequalities take root for generations to come."

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In July, the Commission on School Reform, the independent group of education experts set up by the think tank Reform Scotland, proposed six extra hours per week of catch-up lessons for pupils over the next two years, in order to repair the damage caused by lost education during lockdown. At that point at the end of the first lockdown, it was believed it would have to be funded to the tune of roughly £100m per annum.

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It suggested an estimated 19,000 additional staff would be needed to oversee the catch-up sessions, which could be made up of retired and trainee teachers, plus university students from other disciplines.

The IFS briefing warns that the lifetime costs of the lost schooling equates to an astronomical £350bn in lost lifetime earnings across millions of school children across the UK.

That equates to approximately £40,000 each in income over their lifetime.

It says that "if by some miracle" the efforts by schools, teachers, children, parents and charities allowed us to mitigate 75% of this effect, the total loss would still be £90bn.

"A large amount of these negative effects are likely to be borne by children from lower-income families, resulting in a likely rise in inequality over the long-run," the IFS analysis says.

"A massive injection of resources is likely to be required to help pupils properly catch up."

The analysis estimates that the costs of the lost of half a year of day-to-day schooling is over £30bn across the UK including £2.8bn in Scotland.

It says they are not necessarily advocating an automatic increase in school spending of that amount but warned that "correcting a loss on this scale certainly requires a massive injection of resources".

Luke Sibieta, research fellow at the Institute for Fiscal Studies said: "A loss of over half a year of normal schooling is likely to have far-reaching long-run consequences. We will all be less productive, poorer, have less money to spend on public services, more unequal and we may be less happy and healthy as a result.

"Standard evidence on the returns to schooling would imply a total loss of £350bn, or £90bn under incredibly optimistic assumptions. The inescapable conclusion is that lost learning represents a gigantic long-term risk for future prosperity, the public finances, the future path of inequality and well-being.”

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"We therefore need a policy response that is appropriate to the scale of the problem. One useful benchmark is the £30bn it normally costs for half a year of schooling in the UK. That doesn't mean we need to spend that much. But is does strongly suggest that the £1.5 billion allocated across the UK so far doesn't even start to match the scale of the challenge. A much larger policy response would allow us to consider radical and properly resourced ways to help pupils catch-up."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Since the start of the pandemic, additional funding of £80 million has led to the recruitment of an additional 1,400 teachers and over 200 support staff for the 2020-21 school year.

"We have also invested £25 million to address digital exclusion in schools to support remote learning, and recently announced an additional £45 million for local authorities and schools to support children and young people in these challenging circumstances, which can be used flexibly by local authorities to purchase additional digital devices and connectivity solutions, recruit additional staff and provide wider family support.

“Our draft Budget for 2021 will see an investment of over £30 million to support schools to mitigate the ongoing impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on our children and young people’s learning. We know Covid has had a negative impact on the poverty-related attainment gap and as part of our response to the pandemic, Pupil Equity Fund allocations of over £250 million have been confirmed for two years, 2020/21 and 2021/22.”