We have increased the high needs budget by a record £2.3 billion, which is over a third over the past three years. We are also making good progress with the special educational needs and disability review, which has inevitably been a bit frustrated by the pandemic and changed the issues we are looking at, but we absolutely want all pupils to have access to the education they deserve. That is why our recovery funding has also been extra tilted towards those in specialist settings.
We have seen a real revolution in maths over the last 10 years, with maths being the most popular subject to take at A-level. This has been supported not just by changes in the curriculum, in terms of how people are learning maths, but by the introduction of new specialist maths schools that are making sure that young people have the opportunity to excel in mathematics, which is so vital.
At every stage, the Government have been one of the first to act in order to keep this country safe; this was one of the first countries in Europe to impose travel restrictions on India as a result of the delta variant. The new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, the Transport Secretary and the Prime Minister take that responsibility incredibly seriously.
I share my hon. Friend’s concern about this issue, and I pay tribute to him for his work on this matter and that of the APPG. We aim to attract and retain high-skilled, talented individuals, including men, into teaching through effective pay structures and financial incentives, and we have set out plans to increase starting salaries nationally to £30,000. We also intend to retain male teachers in primary schools by offering world-class support and development through the early career framework reforms.
We have invested £1.7 billion to help pupils get back on track, including through tutoring. We will continue to monitor the impact of the pandemic on all students, including those due to take their exams in 2022, to ensure that students in this cohort can receive a fair grade. We have appointed Sir Kevan Collins as recovery commissioner, and he is advising on further measures to ensure that all students catch up on the education that they have lost.
We all recognise that this has been an incredibly challenging year for all students. We have seen the impact on our own children and, of course, on children in our constituencies. As those who have been involved in education recognise, exams are the fairest and best form of assessment. We recognise that this is a unique year that has presented unique challenges. That is why we have taken the unusual and unique steps of ensuring that the generosity of grading is similar to and mirrors that of children who took exams in the previous year, and of taking action to make sure that there is advance notice of the areas that children will be tested on to make sure that they are in the best possible position to succeed and do the best they possibly can in those exams.
My hon. Friend will be aware that I want to see all children in schools at all times, if possible. As he highlights, however, there will be certain areas of the country where additional action needs to be taken that will lead to the temporary closure of schools. That has happened across the country all the way through the pandemic, but we will probably see a little more of it over the coming term than we saw in the previous term. That is part of the reason why we made the announcement of the distribution of 1 million laptops to support remote learning in schools, and that is why we have made and continue to make increased investment in the Oak National Academy to support online learning and to make sure that there is a whole suite of lessons for every subject and every year group to support schools. It is an important resource for them to be able teach their children. That support will continue, as well as the covid catch-up fund of £1 billion, which has been made available to schools and colleges.
We aim to get all the computers that we have purchased out by the end of June, and we are on course to be able to do that. We also recognise the importance of supporting children through not just online learning, but additional learning that we can provide for them through schools. We are making sure that we have also supported schools to be able to have Microsoft Teams and Google platforms in order to help them deliver more learning online and, for physical learning, we are ensuring that they can deliver by sending resources to pupils directly as well.
My hon. Friend makes the important point that getting children back into routine is vital, and getting as many children as we can back into the classroom is a top priority for all of us. The fruit and vegetable scheme is led by the Department of Health and Social Care, but I will be in contact with it to have discussions, and I will get back to my hon. Friend on the matter.
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend, and I know that he will do everything possible to increase opportunities for young people in Bolsover. Of course, every area needs good provision that meets the needs of local employers and learners. He will be aware that, in addition to the RNN group, there are two general colleges that recruit students from the Bolsover area: Chesterfield College and West Nottinghamshire College, both of which supply a bus for students travelling from Bolsover. There are also a number of independent training providers in the surrounding areas that offer a wide range of high quality apprenticeships.
I should like to start by paying tribute to the leadership that my hon. Friend has shown in championing the cause of apprenticeships in his role as a national apprenticeship ambassador, a role that I held myself. On the issue that he has raised, strong leadership and governance are critical to the success of colleges, and this funding will help colleges to invest in current and future leaders. South Essex College, which has campuses around the south Essex area, is just one example of how good leadership can deliver for local businesses and for young people, including many of my hon. Friend’s own constituents.