Headteacher is ‘excited’ by government’s Covid catch-up investment to help students - but awaits detail
PUBLISHED: 13:18 24 June 2020 | UPDATED: 10:13 25 June 2020
A headteacher at a Bury St Edmunds school has said she is keen to use cash from the government’s Covid catch-up scheme to help students most at need.
The Prime Minister has announced a £1billion fund to support England’s children catch-up on learning lost while schools have been shut due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Primary and secondary schools will be given £650million for one-to-one or group tuition for any pupils they think need it.
The most disadvantaged pupils will have access to tutors through a £350m National Tutoring Programme over the year from September.
While educators have welcomed the funding, they say more detail is needed, and there is also concern early years providers and sixth forms are excluded.
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Trenica King, headteacher at Sybil Andrews Academy in Bury St Edmunds, said: “We are really excited by the announcement of a very significant amount of extra funds to help support our students catch-up in their education.
“While we still await firm details and guidance, we are keen to use this money to support students most at need. We also note that real progress can be made with one-to-one tutoring or in small groups alongside the more traditional classroom studies.”
The school welcomed back its Year 10 students last week on a part-time basis and staff are desperate to get more students back as soon as they can, she said.
“There has been some amazing creativity and engagement shown by our students in the last few months – both from those learning at home and those who have still attended the school building.
“But they will make even more progress when they are back with teachers who know them best and who are passionate about their subjects,” she added.
‘Investment is welcome, but there needs to be more detail’
Graham White, Suffolk secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said the cash was “welcome”, but there were so many unanswered questions about how the catch-up scheme would work.
He said tutoring would benefit some students, but not all, adding teachers in a classroom setting knew the background and any difficulties a child may have, but there wasn’t that relationship with tutoring.
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“It’s about developing and nurturing and I’m not sure tutoring will achieve that. I’m not going to dismiss tutoring because I think it has its place, but I’m not sure it’s the best for those pupils who have got the most behind with their work,” he said.
He said schools had been “crying out” for money for many years and perhaps if it had been available years earlier there wouldn’t be such a crisis.
“It’s no fault of the pupils or the schools,” he said.
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Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said there was a “great deal of merit” in one-to-one and small group tuition, but also had questions about the model for the National Tutoring Programme.
He said: “Could the £350 million of funding be better used by simply providing it to schools to fund catch-up programmes, rather than subsidising tutoring organisations?
“And if schools are expected to pay towards the cost of the tutors how does this square with the fact that school funding has been very uneven for many years and some institutions will have far less capacity to afford these costs?”
Mr Barton was also “concerned” there was no funding for early years and 16-19 provision.
‘It beggars belief early years has been excluded’
Neil Leitch, chief executive of The Early Years Alliance said: “Given that quality early years provision plays a pivotal role in children’s long-term learning and development, it beggars belief that the early years sector has been excluded from this ‘catch-up’ package.
“Childcare settings across the country are working hard to provide the best possible support to those children who have missed several weeks of important early education. Why is it then, that once again, schools get much-needed financial support and early years providers don’t?
“The fact that this comes on the back of months of inadequate support for the early years sector makes this decision all the more galling. With one in four childcare providers expecting to go out of business within the year, the government simply cannot keep ignoring the financial pressures facing the sector.
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“For the vast majority of children, education starts long before they reach the school gates. It’s time the government recognised this fact, and gave early years providers the respect and support that they deserve.”
Speaking when the announcement was made last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he wanted to again thank teachers, childcare workers and support staff for the “brilliant work they have been doing throughout the pandemic”.
“This £1b catch-up package will help headteachers to provide extra support to children who have fallen behind while out of school,” he said.
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