Covid: £1.4 billion to give England school pupils 100 million extra hours of tuition in coronavirus catch-up plan

There were mixed views on the government's catch-up proposals, ITV Political Reporter Shehab Khan reports

Students will be offered up to 100 million hours of tuition as part of the government’s multimillion-pound catch-up programme for children in England, in a bid to help pupils make up for lost learning following months of school closures and isolations due to Covid-19.

Year 13 students will also be given the option to repeat their final school year if they have been badly affected by coronavirus.

After months of school closures, the Department for Education has declared an additional £1.4 billion of funding, on top of the £1.7 billion already pledged for the catch up needed.

The government's education tsar Sir Kevan Collins is despondent about the government's catch-up programme for school children in England, ITV News understands.

ITV News UK Editor, Paul Brand, reports Sir Kevan was unhappy about the level funding for the plan which was ten times lower than the £15 billion he suggested and believed he had let down students.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the plans "should give parents confidence."

He added: “Young people have sacrificed so much over the last year and as we build back from the pandemic, we must make sure that no child is left behind."

GCSE student Dev Sharma told ITV Lunchtime News that teachers at his school voluntarily gave an extra hour of their time for catch-up lessons

The government has announced:

  • £1 billion for tutoring in England, which will see up to 100 million tutoring hours.

  • Six million 15-hour tutoring courses for disadvantaged pupils, as well as an expansion of the 16-19 tuition fund which will target subjects such as maths and English.

  • A further £400 million will go towards providing high-quality training to early years practitioners and school teachers to help children progress.

  • Pupils between the ages of two and 19 will be included.

ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand said that although the money will pay for 100 million hours of tutoring, the money works out at around "£50 per pupil per year and is only 10% of what many in the sector say is needed."

He added that the education recovery commissioner had been calling for more and that government sources have indicated to him that more money may be available down the line.

Education unions have described the £1.4 billion funding package as “hugely disappointing” and a “damp squib”, with one school leaders’ union boss warning that the announcement “lets down the nation’s children”.

The government announced its plans as Labour published its two-year £14.7 billion education recovery plan, which called for extracurricular activities to be expanded and mental health support in schools to be improved.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson welcomed the funding amid criticism that more should have been allocated.

Challenged about the amount of money given to school pupils, which is less than a tenth of the £15 billion recommended by education tsar Sir Kevan Collins, education secretary Gavin Williamson told ITV News the funding "was quite unprecedented outside a spending review" and that it would allow the government "take action immediately".

He said: "We recognised that we wanted to take action immediately to help children now and today...that’s why we’ve secured that extra £1.4 billion today so that children will be able to feel that benefit today. 

He explained the £1.4 billion would compliment the £1.7 billion already announced to help children over the past few months.

'I sometimes see children leaving the school gates at 2:45' - Gavin Williamson says the review will be used to look at the best way to get results for students.

Mr Williamson said the aim of the review was to establish "what is the best way of delivering most for children".

He said: "I sometimes see children leaving the school gates at 2.45 in the afternoon - I think that’s a bit too early.

"I’ve seen lunch hours condensed down so it is only a half hour, so it’s not just about the academic but it’s about the enrichment activities that children are often missing out on.

"What we’re wanting to do is use this review to look at the best way to deliver the best results for children."

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson says tutoring has especially helped those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Credit: PA

He pointed to the rollout of tutoring saying it "delivers immediate benefits for children".

"I've seen it when I've gone round schools how this is helping children, especially children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds."

Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green said she was "very disappointed" in the government's plan.

She told ITV News, the money was significant in theory but not "in practice when the government’s own education expert has advised that ten times more would be needed."

Shadow education secretary Kate Green said she is 'very disappointed' in the government's plans

She added: "This will only give one hour a fortnight of tutoring to children, when we know that many millions of school hours have been lost over the last year.

"There’s nothing at all for the wider social and emotional wellbeing package that Labour is suggesting is needed. 

"We’ve heard again and again from parents and from teachers that it’s not just lost learning that they are worried about but children’s social and emotional wellbeing."

The Labour Party has announced its own post-Covid package for education, which includes quality mental health support, continued development for teachers and breakfast clubs - at a proposed cost of just under £15 billion.

Pupils in year 13 will be offered the opportunity to repeat their final year. Credit: PA

But the announcement, which was made during half-term, does not include plans to lengthen the school day, or shorten the summer break.

The government’s education recovery commissioner, Sir Kevan Collins, is still considering long-term proposals to address the impact of Covid on children.

Sir Kevan said: “The pandemic has caused a huge disruption to the lives of England’s children. Supporting every child to get back on track will require a sustained and comprehensive programme of support.

Boris Johnson, who visited a London school in April, says the plans 'should give parents confidence'. Credit: PA

“The investments in teaching quality and tutoring announced today offer evidence-based support to a significant number of our children and teachers.

"But more will be needed to meet the scale of the challenge.”

The DfE said the next stage will include a review of time spent in school and college and the impact this could have on helping young people.

The findings will be set out later in the year to inform the spending review.

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But Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), suggested that there had been a battle behind the scenes over funding for education recovery between the Treasury and the DfE as the “settlement is less than a tenth of the £15 billion that was being mooted”.

He said: “This is a hugely disappointing announcement which lets down the nation’s children and schools at a time when the Government needed to step up and demonstrate its commitment to education.

“The sum of £1.4 billion may sound like a big figure but it is divided into many different pots, has to be distributed across thousands of schools and millions of pupils, and the delivery processes outlined in the announcement seem incredibly complicated.”