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Gavin Williamson Hints School Day Could Be Lengthened To Help Pupils Catch Up After Covid Disruption

Gavin Williamson Hints School Day Could Be Lengthened To Help Pupils Catch Up After Covid Disruption

Gavin Williamson defended the cash being given to schools to help pupils catch up after the pandemic disrupted learning (PA)

5 min read

Education secretary Gavin Williamson has defended the level of funding allocated to schools to help pupils catch up on missed learning due to the pandemic.

Williamson did not deny that a proposal to lengthen the school day is under consideration to deal with the coronavirus disruption.

"We'll be looking at how we can boost and support children in a whole range of different manners," Williamson told Sky News. 

"But it's not just about time in school, it's about supporting teachers in terms of the quality of teaching and how we can help them.”

The Cabinet minister also would not rule out extending the policy, forcing secondary school pupils in England to wear masks in the classroom until June 21, the proposed final date to ease lockdown.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We're reviewing that at the Easter holidays to see if that has had a positive impact, and the impact that Public Health England would feel is right, or whether it's going to continue to be necessary."

It comes after the government announced secondary schools are to be given funding to run summer schools part of the catch-up plan, but the amount of cash allocated has been dismissed as “inadequate”.

Overnight the Prime Minister has pledged an extra £400million of funding – on top of the £300million announced in January – as part of its education recovery plan following months of school closures.

Of that there will be a a £302million Recovery Premium, which will see every primary school handed £6,000, and secondaries £22,000, to support pupils most in need.

And £200 million will be available to secondary schools to deliver the face-to-face summer schools.

Boris Johnson said: "When schools re-open and face to face education resumes on March 8, our next priority will be ensuring no child is left behind as a result of the learning they have lost over the past year."

"This extensive programme of catch-up funding will equip teachers with the tools and resources they need to support their pupils, and give children the opportunities they deserve to learn and fulfil their potential.”

But Labour’s shadow education secretary Kate Green said: "This is 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.”

Labour also calculated the new package was worth less than the £840milion spent on the Eat Out to Help Out scheme last year.

The party said it would be worth just 43p per pupil per day, if the money was split across a normal school year.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders' union NAHT, said: "Summers schools will be of value for some pupils but it will be important not to overwhelm students. Recovery cannot happen in a single summer."

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said it was "frustrating" that the £700 million package had been "salami-sliced to such an extent that it may reduce its effectiveness".

He said: "Our view is that the total sum of the money should go directly to schools, colleges, and early years providers, rather than being diverted into other pots or ring-fenced.

But Williamson defended the level of funding being given to schools to help students catch up on missed classroom time.

He told BBC Breakfast: "It gives schools the extra resource to be able to give extra pay for teachers to do overtime, support staff to do overtime, to help them assist with children to do that extra learning, that extra bit of education, that extra support that goes the extra mile and helps children to be able to bounce back from this pandemic.”

"By allocating a large sum of money to the National Tutoring Programme and apparently earmarking another large sum of money specifically for summer schools, there is less available to schools and colleges to use for catch-up support in general."

The education secretary said more detail on how pupils will be graded this year will be announced in the coming days.

He told BBC Breakfast: "We're going to be literally in the next few days outlining the more granular detail of exactly what that looks like.

"As we've said many times before we're not going to be running exams this year, it's going to be based on teacher judgment."

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