An independent action group will invest £1.5 million into Essex education, the county council has said.

The Essex Education Task Force will use cash from the county council's reserves to support post-Covid recovery in schools throughout the county.

The group is led by Roy Blatchford, a former government schools inspector.

Mr Blatchford said: "Our aim is to ensure that no child or young person in Essex is left behind or disadvantaged due to the pandemic and that the opportunities available to them are not limited because of the events of the past year.

"We want to seize opportunities to capture and promote innovation and best practice across the education system in Essex.

"We want the county to be at the forefront of shaping education policy and achieving bright futures for all pupils."

The Essex Education Task Force met for the first time in May after its inception in February.

Cllr Tony Ball, the Essex County Council cabinet member responsible for education, said he was optimistic following the meeting.

He said: “We have always been clear that a high-quality education is the right of every child and young person.

"Despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, this has not changed.

"We will continue to support every pupil to thrive and help education colleagues to enable to them to do so."

The council said the group's members want to build on the positive work of their colleagues throughout the pandemic.

The group will have a say in influencing the national education policy to benefit Essex.

It will focus on several themes which have been impacted by the pandemic, including language development, the loss of extra-curricular activities, the 'digital divide', and post-16 employment, education and training.

The group also wants to improve reading skills. Some £500,000 has been earmarked for improving child mental health.

The package is one of several throughout the country.

Last week, the Education Policy Institute (EPI) analysed a UK government post-pandemic catch-up package worth £1.4bn for English schools and colleges.

The EPI said the package is "far from what's needed", working out at around £50 extra per pupil each year.