Boris Johnson unveils £1bn Covid education ‘catch-up’ fund to make up for lockdown lost teaching time
The Government is promising ‘small group tuition for whoever needs it’. (PA)
Boris Johnson is promising a £1bn coronavirus “catch-up” fund in a bid to tackle the impact of lost teaching time on England’s young people.
Vowing “extra support to children who have fallen behind”, the Prime Minister and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson outlined extra cash for state primary and secondary schools alongside a new ‘National Tutoring Programme’.
But Labour said the plans represented a “tiny fraction of the support our pupils need”.
The Government has said it wants all primary and secondary school students in England to return from September, having abandoned previous plans for a return to the classroom for all primary pupils before the summer holidays.
The new catch-up plan will see £650 million shared across state primary and secondary schools over the 2020/21 academic year, with head teachers able to decide how best to spend the money.
But the Government has said it expects them to use the cash for “evidence-based interventions” to support learning, “particularly small group tuition for whoever needs it“. New guidance is being published by the Education Endowment Foundation to support that aim.
Meanwhile the separate tutoring programme aims to help up to two million disadvantaged children get back on track, and the Government is also promising guidance to providers running summer holiday clubs and activities to help them open during the break “if the science allows”.
Launching the plan, Mr Johnson said: “This £1billion catch-up package will help head teachers to provide extra support to children who have fallen behind while out of school.
“I am determined to do everything I can to get all children back in school from September, and we will bring forward plans on how this will happen as soon as possible.”
That was echoed by Mr Williamson, who said: “We cannot afford for any of our children to lose out as a result of Covid-19. The scale of our response must match the scale of the challenge.
“This package will make sure that every young person, no matter their age or where they live, gets the education, opportunities and outcomes they deserve, by spending it on measures proven to be effective, particularly for those who are most disadvantaged.
“The plan will be delivered throughout the next academic year, bringing long term reform to the educational sector that will protect a generation of children from the effects of this pandemic.”
Labour has already demanded more detail on the proposals.
Shadow Education Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey said: “The funding and the principle of a tutoring scheme is certainly a welcome start but it needs to be backed with a detailed national education plan to get children’s education and health back on track.”
And she added: “The present plans lack detail and appear to be a tiny fraction of the support our pupils need at this critical time. The Government must take its responsibility to support children’s learning and their safe return to school seriously and demonstrate leadership in making this happen.”
College leaders are also warning that the plans so far fail to cover the two-thirds of England’s 16 to 18 year olds who are in further education colleges.
Association of Colleges Chief executive David Hughes said: “The Government is right to take action to help school pupils catch up for lost time and to focus on those who are already disadvantaged but it is indefensible to overlook the needs of the 700,000 in colleges.
“I expect their exclusion from this announcement to be followed rapidly by clarification on the funding and support for college students. We are in contact with the Department for Education and hope to have this rectified as soon as possible.”