Boris Johnson said around 90,000 schoolchildren will be behind in their basic literacy skills as a result of Covid-19, saying between three to five months of education has been lost in the past year.
“The legacy issue I think for me is education,” he told a Downing Street press briefing on Tuesday.
“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.
“And that I think it is an opportunity make amends.”
The Government has made £1.7 billion of “catch-up” funding available in England to help children who have faced disruption from school and college closures during the pandemic.
As part of the recovery package, this year summer schools will be introduced for pupils who need it the most, whilst tutoring schemes will be expanded.
The Prime Minister said the education recovery commissioner Sir Kevan Collins will not only focus on ways to remediate the damage caused by the pandemic and plug the gaps in education, but also learn lessons about new ways of remote learning.
Mr Johnson said: ” I think there’s a chance to learn from the pandemic and all the ways in which some teachers and some schools have done brilliantly at discovering how you can teach through Zoom.
“Discovering ways we can teach better, in some ways, through the technology that we’ve been using, but also maximising our use of tutoring as well, so that kids who are falling behind and kids with potential get one-to-one tutoring where we think that can make a difference.
“I’m not going to pretend that everything’s going to work first time, we’ve been through a long period where we’ve got used to things not working first time, but we’re going to persevere.”
As he described the “absolutely unimaginable” year school children and university students have faced, he vowed education would be his biggest priority.
“Our future as a country depends on us now repaying that generation making sure they get the education they need,” he said.
“For me, that’s the biggest priority.”