DURING the pandemic, children from a whole generation have been deprived of the education they expected to receive. They, their parents and their teachers have been put under great strain over the past 15 months.

Covid has changed our way of life not seen since the Second World War.

Our children, and grandchildren, need to be confident the Government has the ambition to provide them with the skills to grasp the future, because their future is also Britain’s future.

It was therefore deeply disappointing to see Sir Kevan Collins, Boris Johnson’s very own Education Commissioner, resign from his post because he knew the Government lacked that ambition, calling it “half-hearted”. His job was to look at what needed to be done to boost the educational needs of our children after the pandemic. The Commissioner understood a real Covid education recovery plan needs real money not just false words of optimism, which is all the Prime Minister could offer.

Sir Kevan said £15bn would be required. He was offered a tenth of that amount. No wonder he resigned. This means, while the US will be investing £1,600 per pupil, the UK will only be investing £310 over three years.

When it comes to our children’s education, and the country’s ability to fulfil its potential, the Government fails to release that Global Britain requires global skills. And those skills start at school.

The Government’s lack of ambition for our children undermines its professed belief in the country’s future, although we have come to understand as far as this government is concerned, it is one rule for some and another rule for everyone else.

We also hear a lot about “levelling up”, but levelling up isn’t just about places, it’s also about people. This is what the Government fails to understand.

For example, schools receive a premium payment for each disadvantaged child. In the North-East, the number of eligible pupils in this category is now 109,000 or approaching 28 per cent of the total, the highest in the country, but the Government is to cut the regional funding for the premium by £7m.

For me, education is the bedrock of aspiration and opportunity and should not be paid lip service by government. You cannot play fast and loose with our children’s future.

Sir Kevan showed real ambition and I’m pleased Labour has come out to match that ambition with proposals that would offer a real Covid recovery plan for children from Sedgefield to Southampton.

Funding for the most disadvantaged children should be boosted by 10 per cent and should be doubled as each pupil enters their next phase of education. There also needs to be a two-year education recovery premium for those facing the greatest disruption. Schools would be accountable for how the money would be spent with an emphasis on the impact of the pandemic on children’s education and well-being. Invest in our children, and we invest in our future.

Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the exchequer, said on hearing of Sir Kevan’s proposal, that “I can't just say yes to everybody who comes knocking on my door”. That is true. But I believe it is wrong and short-sighted to close the door on a whole generation. And that is exactly what he, and the Prime Minister, have done.

Phil Wilson is the former Labour MP for Sedgefield