Cautious welcome for £1billion school 'catch-up' funding

There has been a cautious welcome from unions and sector organisations for the additional £1 billion in school ‘catch-up’ funding announced by the government last week. However, there have been calls for more detail, as well as concerns raised at the exclusion of FE and early years pupils from the programme of support.  

There are two strands to the government’s additional funding, the first being £350 million for a ‘National Tutoring Programme’ targeted at disadvantaged pupils and delivered in partnership with the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), The Sutton Trust, Impetus and Nesta. Schools will be able to access subsided tutoring from an approved list of ‘tuition partners’, while trained graduates will by employed by schools in the most disadvantaged areas to provide intensive catch-up support to their pupils.

Professor Becky Francis, CEO of the EEF said: ‘There is strong evidence that high-quality tuition is a cost-effective way to enable pupils to catch up. This is a tremendous opportunity to offer bespoke support for disadvantaged pupils, and to build a positive legacy from the present crisis.’

There will also be a wider pot of £650 million for schools to draw on to support pupils. The additional funding, which is for the 2020/21 academic year, will be split between state primary and secondary schools (but not FE colleges or early years settings). It is currently understood that school leaders will have discretion on how to spend this additional funding. However the EEF has published guidance, backed by the Department for Education, on strategies which schools might wish to consider using the extra money for.

Among the possible interventions suggested by the EEF is additional support for teachers, noting that early career teachers are ‘particularly likely to benefit from additional mentoring and support’. Offering one to one and small group tuition is another suggestion, with the EEF saying there is ‘extensive evidence’ to support its impact as a catch-up strategy. They also note that tuition delivered by qualified teachers is likely to have the highest impact.

Despite the funding not coming on stream until September, the running of summer programmes is another suggestion, although the EEF note that achieving high levels of attendance, particularly from children from disadvantaged families, can be a ‘challenge’ for such programmes. They also note that another ‘key challenge’ will be staffing, given the ‘extensive demands placed on teachers and schools in recent months’.

Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT union welcomed the new package of financial measures, but called on the government to ‘also now consider how it can go further to level up opportunity by tackling the causes of educational disadvantage, provide much-needed mental health support for those children who have been most affected during this crisis, and to ensure the delivery of a national technology offer for pupils which will equip all children to continue their learning outside the classroom and provide vital protection in the event of a second wave of this pandemic.’

Also responding to the funding announcement, general secretary of the Voice union Deborah Lawson said: ‘We welcome the catch-up programme for schools, which has the potential to be of enormous benefit to many children. However, we are disappointed by the exclusion of the early years and further education colleges, when much more needs to be done to support the educational, social and emotional development of children and students at both poles of the education journey. Clearly, all stakeholders will need to study the fine details as they become available, and it is to be hoped that enough qualified tutors can be recruited to deliver the scheme for all pupils who need it.’

EEF support guide for schools: https://tinyurl.com/y7ye9kpk

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