All you need to know about £1.4bn Covid catch-up for children

Sixth form students

Sixth form students will be offered the opportunity to repeat their final year under the new education catch-up plans. - Credit: PA

Sixth form students are to be offered the opportunity to repeat their final year to make up for classes missed as a result of lockdown chaos.

It comes as the Department for Education (DfE) announced an additional £1.4 billion of funding - on top of the £1.7 billion already pledged for catch-up - to help pupils make up for lost learning following months of school closures during the pandemic.

Schools and colleges will receive partial funding to offer hours of additional tuition with help targeted on disadvantaged pupils.  

But the announcement - which was made during the half-term - does not include plans to lengthen the school day, or shorten the summer break.

Pupils at high school

Education unions have described the £1.4 billion funding package as "hugely disappointing" and a "damp squib". - Credit: PA

The plans are much more limited than the £13.5bn which the Education Policy Institute (EPI) had calculated would be required.

Headteachers and unions described the package as "hugely disappointing".

Former local head Geoff Barton, who is now general secretary of the ASCL headteacher union, suggested that there had been a “battle behind the scenes” between the Treasury and the DfE.

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He said: "The sum of £1.4 billion may sound like a big figure but it is divided into many different pots, has to be distributed across thousands of schools and millions of pupils, and the delivery processes outlined in the announcement seem incredibly complicated."

Jim Adams, co-chair of Educate Norfolk, tweeted “The Treasury won, then. Now we know where we stand”.

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Will students be able to repeat a school year?

Schools or colleges will be able to offer pupils in Year 13 the option to repeat the year if they have been particularly badly affected by the pandemic. 

The decision was made after exams were cancelled for a second year.

Schools and colleges will be funded by the DfE to help accommodate the additional student numbers this will cause but no further details have been announced.

School tutoring

The DfE programme includes extra tutoring courses for disadvantaged pupils and expansion of the 16-19 tuition fund targeting subjects such as maths and English. - Credit: PA

What sort of help will pupils get from extra tutoring?

The bulk of the extra cash will go on funding up to six million 15-hour tutoring courses for disadvantaged school children.

It will also see the 16-19 tuition fund expanded and extra lessons targeted at the core subjects of English and maths.

There is additional funds for schools to develop local tutoring provision using new or existing staff.

Funding is expected to cover about 75pc of costs in 2021-22, with schools contributing the remaining costs.

The DfE said a single course of high-quality tutoring has been “proven to boost attainment by three to five months” adding that “tutoring will be vital for young people in recovering the teaching hours lost in the last year”.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson

Education secretary Gavin Williamson said the catch-up plan would 'boost children's learning in the wake of the disruption caused by the pandemic'. - Credit: PA

Will schools be open for longer hours?

Gavin Williamson said the next stage will include a review of time spent in school and college and the impact this could have on helping young people as part of "further improvements" to England's teaching system.

The findings will be set out “later in the year to inform the spending review”.

He said: "Longer term, we do want to see further changes and further improvements. That's why we are doing a review in terms of time within schools, how best we can use it.

"I think there is a debate to be had whether children should be exiting the school gate as they do in some schools at 2.45pm, or whether they should be in school later.

"Have we condensed down the lunch time? It used to be an hour, sometimes in schools it is half an hour.

"It is right that we work with schools and teachers, as well as parents and children, as to what delivers them the best benefit."

Children arrive at school

The long-awaited education recovery plan does not include proposals for an extended school day. - Credit: PA

Will the package benefit early years children?

There is extra cash for training for early years staff to support the very youngest children’s learning and development. This will involve new programmes focusing on key areas such as speech and language.

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