School catch-up: What’s the plan?

Research has revealed that primary school children lost months of learning in the latest lockdown. The study – conducted by the Education Policy Institute and Renaissance Leaning – found that Maths skills have been hit particularly hard, with children 3.5 months behind those in non-pandemic years. For reading, the learning loss by the end of the spring term was an average of 2.2 months. The government has pledged to tackle the problem with an ambitious school catch-up plan. But what does it consist of? And is it enough to deal with the crisis?

Extra catch-up funding

The government has pledged £1.4 billion of extra funding for the post-pandemic catch-up programme for pupils in England, on top of the £1.7 billion it has already announced for schools. The money will go towards tutoring courses, extra help for year 13 students, and teacher training. 

While some have welcomed the Department for Education’s announcement, others have said more money is needed to make up for months of lost learning. It was reported that education recovery commissioner, Sir Kevan Collins – who has now resigned from the role – recommended a £15 billion funding boost.

More tuition 

The government has promised a ‘national tutoring revolution’ to help children get back on track in the classroom. £1 billion will be used to support up to 6 million, 15-hour tutoring courses for disadvantaged school children, as well as an expansion of the 16-19 tuition fund, targeting key subjects such as Maths and English, the Department for Education has said.

Schools will now be able to provide additional tutoring support using locally employed tutors. This will build on the National Tutoring Programme, allowing tutors to deliver the one-to-one and small group tutoring for pupils across the country.

There is also provision for funding to allow some year-13 students to repeat their final year if it was badly affected by the pandemic.

The government said the £1bn will ‘transform’ the availability and approach to tuition in every school and college over the next three years, making sure when teachers identify a disadvantaged child in need of support as a result of the pandemic, extra support is available. Tutoring will be targeted at those considered most in need of support, particularly the disadvantaged, and will not available for all pupils.

Longer school days 

It has been reported that the government intends to extend school days in England by 30 minutes as part of its catch-up drive. However, some teachers and parents have raised concerns about student wellbeing and burn-out. No final decision has been made, and the issue will be the subject of a separate review due to report later in the year.

Teacher training boost

£153 million has been allocated for for ‘evidence-based professional development’ for early years practitioners, including through new programmes focusing on areas such as speech and language development for the youngest children. Meanwhile, £253 million will go towards existing teacher training and development, to give 500,000 school teachers the opportunity to access training.

What next? 

The prime minister has promised schools in England there will be more money ‘coming down the track’ after catch-up plans were criticised as lack lustre by some quarters. How much money – and where it will be directed to – remains to be seen, however. Watch this space.