The majority of school leaders do not believe extending the school day should be the preferred option in helping children catch up with missed learning due to Covid-19, a survey suggests.
The poll, by the NAHT school leaders' union, shows that 70% of those surveyed think one-to-one and small tutoring groups should be the main focus, but only by the schools themselves and not through the government's National Tutoring Programme.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, is calling on the Government to give schools flexible funding and resources “to get on with the job in the way they know works best”.
The findings came after schools catch-up tsar, Sir Kevan Collins, quit this month with a stinging condemnation of the government’s new £1.4 billion education recovery fund, which he said “falls far short of what is needed”.
Sir Kevan had recommended that schools should be funded for a flexible extension to school time, the equivalent to 30 minutes extra every day.
Proposals to extend the school day were not included in the announcement, but Home Office minister, Victoria Atkins, said the Government has not ruled out lengthening pupils’ time spent in school as part of their efforts.
But a survey, of more than 700 school leaders in England, suggests that school leaders largely do not believe the government should be focusing additional funding for educational recovery on school-day extensions.
When asked to choose their top three priorities for where any extra money should be targeted, 3% said the Government’s National Tutoring Programme and 2% said extending the school day for additional learning.
The most popular choices were one-to-one and small group tutoring organised by schools (70%), better support for pupil mental health and wellbeing (63%), and increased allocations for pupil premium funding – which helps schools provide support to poorer children (42%).
Mr Whiteman said: “The National Tutoring Programme is a great idea in principle and could have a really positive impact, but the current bureaucracy surrounding it, and the difficulties schools are facing accessing tutors, means that it is starting to feel like yet another hoop to jump through and a pressure rather than a help.
“It also doesn’t help that schools still don’t even know what their allocations will be for next year, making planning incredibly difficult.
“As our members show with their priorities in this survey, 1:1 and small group tutoring is a measure that education professionals know works. They just need the flexibility – and funding and resources – to organise it themselves.
“Schools are already doing the work of recovery and have been since children returned to classrooms.
“They know what they need to do – what they need from the Government is support. They don’t need to be told how to do the job, they just need the Government to give them the resources and stand back.”