200,000 children will leave primary school unable to read

More than 200,000 pupils will leave primary school this year without being able to read, according to unpublished figures by the Government.

The figures show that the number of students who struggle with literacy has risen by 30,000 over the past year during the pandemic, when schooling has been disrupted.

Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, is set to announce a “four-year emergency” plan to help children catch up on their learning in an address following the Queen’s speech on May 11.

Senior Government sources told the Sunday Times that the Prime Minister saw the problem as his top priority after coronavirus vaccinations.

Mr Johnson is said to have met with Sir Kevan Collins, who is leading a review into the impact of the pandemic on the education of schoolchildren, who is reported to have “put a rocket up” Downing Street regarding the severity of the situation.

One suggestion to help get children back up to speed, which is being worked up by Sir Kevan, is to bring in a “citizen army” of teachers, including former and supply teachers, recruited to help those children who are struggling.

Last year Robert Halfon, the Conservative chairman of the Commons education select committee, called on the Prime Minister to set up a “national education army” to save hundreds of thousands of pupils.

He urged the PM to fund the scheme to open venues such as school gyms and church halls and hire retired teachers, Ofsted inspectors and students to run classes.

Mr Johnson now wants to pour “billions” of pounds into tutoring small groups of students, as well as after-school and holiday clubs to help pupils catch up, extending the “learning day”.

At a Downing Street press conference last month, Mr Johnson said: “It’s the loss of learning for so many children and young people that’s the thing we’ve got to focus on now as a society.”

A Number 10 source said the speech will deliver the “hard truths” on how coronavirus has impacted the UK socially, similar in tone to that of Rishi Sunak’s appraisal of the economy in the latest budget.

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