Covid: English secondary summer schools part of catch-up planon February 24, 2021 at 1:08 am

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A total of £720m will help ensure “no child is left behind” due to the pandemic, Boris Johnson says.

A teacher in a socially-distanced classroom

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Secondary schools in England will be asked to deliver face-to-face summer schools as part of efforts to catch pupils up with lessons lost to Covid.

An extra £420m in funding has been announced, along with £300m announced for catch-up projects in January.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the money will help ensure “no child is left behind” due to the pandemic.

Teachers’ unions said allocating the money should be up to schools, which reopen to all pupils from 8 March.

The prime minister confirmed all pupils will return to classrooms next month as part of the first step of a roadmap for easing England’s lockdown.

National restrictions since last March have led many pupils to lose around half a school year in face-to-face learning, the government said.

Announcing the catch-up plans, Mr Johnson praised teachers and parents for a “heroic job with home schooling” but said the classroom was “the best place for our children to be”.

The combined £720m package for England includes:

  • A one-off £302m “recovery premium” for state primary and secondary schools to boost summer schooling, clubs and activities
  • £200m to fund face-to-face secondary summer schools, with teachers in charge of deciding which pupils benefit
  • An expanded national tutoring programme for primary and secondary pupils and an extended tuition fund for 16 to 19-year-olds – also worth £200m
  • £18m funding to support early-years language development

The average primary school will receive around £6,000 extra, with the average secondary school getting around £22,000 extra in recovery premium payments, the Department for Education said.

These premium payments may also be used to support the most disadvantaged pupils to catch-up from the start of the new academic year in September.

The government considered a variety of options for pupils – including extended school days and shorter summer holidays – but neither of these proposals form part of the plan to be set out on Wednesday.

Alongside the newly-announced programme, online resources will continue over the summer through Oak National Academy.

Kate Green, Labour’s shadow education secretary, said the funding was “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,” she said.

Labour also calculated the new package was worth less than the £840m spent on the Eat Out to Help Out scheme last year, and would be worth 43p per pupil per day, if the money was split across a normal school year.

School leaders’ unions welcomed the funding but warned of a long road ahead for the children most affected by lockdown.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT – which represents head teachers – said summer schools “will be of value for some pupils but it will be important not to overwhelm students”.

Geoff Barton, of the Association of School and College Leaders, said it supported the funding package but called for all of the money to be given to schools, colleges and early-years providers.

“The best way of ensuring that catch-up work is well-resourced is surely to maximise the amount of money available to providers to spend on the approaches that work best for their pupils,” he said.

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By Dan Johnson, BBC News

Just working out how to measure what each child has missed during the pandemic is tricky, let alone agreeing on the best way to address it and make sure they all achieve their potential.

Many teachers are wary of talking about “catching-up” and pupils being “left behind” – they do not want to discourage young people.

But there is widespread recognition that home learning could never fully replace classroom teaching and some pupils will need significant extra support when they get back to classrooms.

The government is backing one-to-one and small group tuition, alongside summer school activities.

Suggestions of a longer school day or a shorter summer holiday have not materialised.

Many teachers feel they can best assess what their pupils need, but after a relentless year, they are tired and need help in some form.

How that help is given and whether it reaches the right pupils will determine the lasting impact on the lives of children who’ve been through the most difficult school year.

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Last year, Mr Johnson announced a £1bn catch-up fund for England, and he later appointed Sir Kevan Collins as education recovery commissioner.

Explaining the return of all pupils to England’s schools on 8 March, the government said in its roadmap document: “By February half-term, studies suggest the total loss in face-to-face learning could amount to around half a school year, with two-thirds of a normal year lost if the return to face-to-face education in schools is delayed to after Easter.”

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Sir Kevan said the latest announcement was “just the beginning” and he will “ensure this support is delivered in a way that works for both young people and the sector and to understand what more is needed”.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “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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