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'Where there's political will the Treasury can find the money from behind the back of the sofa': Robert Halfon MP calls on Government to find more cash for schools' Covid recovery

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Harlow MP Robert Halfon has said that if his own Government can find £200m for a new yacht "from behind the back of the sofa" it can fully fund Covid recovery for schools.

Mr Halfon, whose constituency includes Matching and Sheering, has chaired the House of Commons Education Select Committee for almost four years. He is a former skills minister and served in David Cameron's cabinet as minister without portfolio and deputy Conservative party chairman.

On Thursday (June 3) the outspoken Tory has been giving a series of media interviews following the resignation of Sir Kevan Collins, the education recovery commissioner for England.

Robert Halfon has been MP for Harlow since 2010
Robert Halfon has been MP for Harlow since 2010

His job was to develop a long-term plan to help pupils make up for lost learning during the pandemic. However, he quit on Wednesday, condemning the Government's additional £1.4 billion – £50 a pupil – over three years as falling "far short of what is needed". A £1.7bn package had previously been announced. It has been suggested he favoured a £15bn programme.

In his resignation statement, Sir Kevan said: "A half-hearted approach risks failing hundreds of thousands of pupils.

"The support announced by Government so far does not come close to meeting the scale of the challenge and is why I have no option but to resign from my post."

Mr Halfon, who also took the Government to task over non-provision of free school meals throughout holidays during the pandemic, said the funding announced was a "hefty starter" but must be followed by a substantial main course.

He told the BBC: "It's clear Kevan Collins thought there was no main course. It's a huge blow."

He feared a disaster for the nation's children and said: "Levelling up has got to mean transforming education and making sure young people can climb the ladder of opportunity."

He pointed to plans to spend £200m on a yacht to boost Britain's trade negotiations and said that it proved "where there's political will, the Treasury can find the money from behind the back of the sofa".

A Downing Street spokesman said: "The Government will continue to focus on education recovery and making sure no child is left behind with their learning, with over £3 billion committed for catch-up so far."

The Indie has approached Hertford and Stortford MP Julie Marson for her reaction.

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