Education bosses have written to Gavin Williamson demanding an additional £5.8 billion to help pupils in England whose learning has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
A letter to the Education Secretary from influential school leaders set out recovery funding proposals and catch-up plans for the next three years.
It said that not investing in young people’s futures at this “crucial moment” would lead to “greater costs down the line”.
The proposals, as well as increasing funding generally, included “significant investment” in mental health support teams and additional support around extracurricular activities.
Signatories included Geoff Barton of the Association Of School & College Leaders, David Hughes of the Association of Colleges, Leora Cruddas of the Confederation of School Trusts, and Lucy Heller of Ark Schools.
The group welcomed the Government’s pledge to provide £3 billion to help pupils make up for lost learning, but said it was not enough.
“As you know the pandemic has had a profound impact on schools and colleges and the lives of pupils,” the letter said.
“Two lengthy periods of closure have left many students behind where they should be.
“We welcome the £3 billion the Government has committed over the past two years, particularly for tuition and teacher professional development, but as you have said yourself, this won’t be enough to deal with the scale of the challenge left by Covid.
“We know that public finances are squeezed but choosing not to invest in the future of young people, at this crucial moment, will only lead to greater costs down the line.
“We cannot afford a lower skilled economy. Nor can we afford the cost of ever worsening mental health challenges or the social costs of school dropout.”
It comes as Labour criticised the government for a series of failures after research showed schools in the UK had suffered longer closures than almost all other European countries.
The authors of the letter also drew attention to the greater educational impact on children from disadvantaged families, and said their plan aimed to target these groups.
They added that nurseries, schools and colleges should be given flexibility with funding to best address the needs of their students.
“We see (the proposals) as the minimum required to avoid serious long-term damage,” they said.