Covid: Secondary schools to deliver summer provision as part of £700m catch-up scheme
Secondary schools will be asked to deliver face-to-face summer schools as part of the government’s multimillion-pound catch-up programme for children in England who have faced disruption due to Covid-19.
Boris Johnson has announced an extra £400 million of funding – on top of the £300 million pledged in January – to help pupils make up lost learning time following months of school closures.
As part of the recovery package, summer provision will be introduced for pupils who need it the most, such as incoming Year 7 pupils, whilst one-to-one and small group tutoring schemes will be expanded.
The programme includes a one-off £302 million “Recovery Premium” for primary and secondary schools to support disadvantaged pupils – which could include running additional clubs and activities in the summer, or opting for evidence-based approaches to help children from September.
A further £200 million will be available to secondary schools to deliver face-to-face summer schools.
Labour says the funding is less than the amount spent on Eat Out to Help Out last summer and amounts to 43p per pupil per day.
With pupils returning to school in less than a fortnight, concerns have also been raised over the safety of teachers.
Calls have been made for teachers to be vaccinated en masse and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told ITV News he would like to give teachers the jab as soon as possible - but he defended the government's approach.
"We took a decision as government that the people that we felt were best to vaccinate first were those who are most likely to end up in hospital as a result of getting Covid or those most likely to die as a result of getting Covid," he said.
"Once we've cleared those first nine groups - of course many teachers are included in those first nine groups - and they'll be getting a vaccination with the rest of the population.
"But after that's been completed, we've asked the independent body of scientists and clinicians to look at two factors.
"[First] as to which group are most vulnerable... in terms of who is most likely to get hospitalised and, secondly, looking at those workforces."
It comes after the government considered a variety of options as part of the catch-up plans for pupils who have missed out – including extended school days and shorter summer holidays.
But both of these proposals, which had been previously described as “policy gimmicks” by the school leaders’ union, are not included in the details set out on Wednesday.
As part of the package, £200 million will fund an expansion of existing tuition programmes for students – including the National Tutoring Programme (NPP) – as well as funding additional language support for pre-school children.
The prime minister insisted schools are safe for young people, despite the pandemic, and said regular testing for coronavirus will help minimise risk.
Mr Johnson said: “When schools re-open and face to face education resumes on March 8, our next priority will be ensuring no child is left behind as a result of the learning they have lost over the past year.
“This extensive programme of catch-up funding will equip teachers with the tools and resources they need to support their pupils, and give children the opportunities they deserve to learn and fulfil their potential.”
It comes after the PM appointed Sir Kevan Collins as the education recovery commissioner earlier this month to oversee the government’s catch-up programme for pupils.
Sir Kevan will develop longer term plans for how evidence-based interventions can be used to address the impact of Covid-19 on learning after engaging with schools, colleges, charities and parents.
In June last year, Boris Johnson announced a £1 billion catch-up fund to help pupils in England.
The package included £350 million for the National Tutoring Programme (NPP) to help the most disadvantaged pupils, and £650 million for schools to help children from all backgrounds catch up.
Sir Kevan said: “We know that ensuring all children and young people can make up for lost learning will be a longer-term challenge, and the range of measures announced today are an important next step.
“But this is just the beginning and I’ll be engaging with the sector, educational charities as well as families, to ensure this support is delivered in a way that works for both young people and the sector and to understand what more is needed to help recover students’ lost learning over the course of this parliament.”
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson added: “Our package of measures will deliver vital support to the children and young people who need it most, making sure everyone has the same opportunity to fulfil their potential no matter their background.”
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Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “Summers schools will be of value for some pupils but it will be important not to overwhelm students. Recovery cannot happen in a single summer.”
He added: “Fortunately, there already exists a wealth of knowledge within the profession about how to narrow achievement gaps. We need to trust schools to put in place a long-term approach based on what they know about the needs of their pupils.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said it was “frustrating” that the £700 million package had been “salami-sliced to such an extent that it may reduce its effectiveness”.
He said: “Our view is that the total sum of the money should go directly to schools, colleges, and early years providers, rather than being diverted into other pots or ring-fenced.
“By allocating a large sum of money to the National Tutoring Programme and apparently earmarking another large sum of money specifically for summer schools, there is less available to schools and colleges to use for catch-up support in general.”
Sir Peter Lampl, founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust, called the package of measures “a promising start”, but he added there were “no quick fixes” as he called for a consistent multi-year recovery plan.
He said: “The strongest evidence for accelerating learning is for increasing time for high-quality teaching. Targeted summer schools are one way to achieve this, and it’s good that schools will have flexibility to decide what will work best for them and their staff.
“However, it’s important to recognise the problem of teacher burnout that could be exacerbated by additional workload.”
Shadow education secretary Kate Green said: “This is not adequate and will not make up for the learning and time with friends that children have lost.
“There is no specific mention of supporting children’s mental health or wellbeing, which is fundamental to enabling their recovery from this pandemic.”