Background to the report

Disruption to children’s education during the COVID-19 pandemic led to lost learning for many pupils, particularly for disadvantaged children. DfE has announced total funding of £4.9 billion to address learning loss and support education recovery, covering early years, schools and education for 16- to 19-year-olds.

Jump to downloads

Most of this funding (£3.5 billion) is for recovery interventions in schools. The main interventions are:

  • the National Tutoring Programme (NTP), which subsidises individual or small-group tutoring and mentoring through three schemes, with a focus on supporting disadvantaged pupils
  • the catch-up premium, which was per-pupil funding for schools during 2020/21
  • the recovery premium, which replaced the catch-up premium from 2021/22 and, for mainstream schools, is allocated based on how many disadvantaged pupils they have

Scope of the report

We reported in March 2021 on support for children’s education during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. We concluded that it was crucial that DfE took swift and effective action to ensure that the catch-up learning programme was effective and reached the children who had been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, such as those who are vulnerable and disadvantaged. Lost learning, if not addressed, may lead to increased disadvantage and significant lost earnings for those affected. It is also likely to have adverse impacts on society and the economy, with implications for productivity and growth, particularly if a generation of young people is affected.

This report examines whether DfE is achieving its objective to help pupils recover lost learning by effectively supporting education recovery in schools following the COVID-19 pandemic. The evaluative criteria that we used to assess value for money included: whether DfE used the available evidence in designing its package of recovery interventions; whether DfE has assurance that funding is being used for the intended purposes; what evidence there is on take-up and whether the interventions are reaching disadvantaged pupils as intended; and whether the package of interventions is having an impact in terms of reducing learning loss. Our work did not cover early years, education for 16- to 19-year-olds, or further or higher education.

The report covers: the design and funding of the recovery package for schools (Part One); the main interventions provided to support education recovery (Part Two); and the recovery package’s impact (Part Three).


Since 2020, DfE has acted to support education recovery in schools through a range of interventions that were informed by the available evidence as to what would be most likely to work. DfE said that support should be targeted at disadvantaged pupils, given their greater learning loss, but gave schools freedom to decide how best to help pupils catch up. There is limited evidence on how extra direct funding for schools was spent and how far it was used to support disadvantaged pupils.

Take up of the centrally run NTP schemes was lower than DfE intended but school-led tutoring boosted take-up to above target. Disadvantaged pupils have been more likely than other pupils to receive tutoring through the NTP, although only a minority have received this extra support. Research indicates that pupils’ learning loss is generally reducing but disadvantaged pupils remain further behind the expected level of achievement than other pupils.

Our examination focused on the first two years of DfE’s interventions to support education recovery in schools. While progress is being made, a final assessment of whether DfE has effectively supported recovery will depend on what happens in the coming years, with nearly half the extra funding scheduled to be spent in 2022/23 and 2023/24. It is vital therefore that DfE maintains its focus on the implementation and impact of its recovery interventions if it is to achieve its ambitions of giving all children the chance to make up the learning they lost and improving the educational outcomes of disadvantaged pupils specifically.


Publication details

Press release

View press release (1 Feb 2023)

Latest reports