Schools will split a £302 million “recovery premium” to support catch-up and secondaries will get £200 million to run summer schools programmes under plans announced by the government today.
Ministers have also pledged £200 million for the “expansion” of the National Tutoring Programme, extension of the 16 to 19 tuition fund and additional support for language development in the early years.
But there are questions over funding available, after the government said expansion of those programmes would cost £203 million overall, rather than the £200 million pledged.
The Department for Education was also unable to say whether it will boost its target to reach 250,000 pupils via the National Tutoring Programme this academic year, despite a plan to “expand” the scheme.
The government has come under growing pressure to say how it will address learning loss caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and partial school closures.
Prime minister Boris Johnson announced earlier this week that all schools will reopen on March 8, though secondary schools will be given some flexibility on how they bring pupils back to help them deal with a requirement to test returning pupils three times on site in the two weeks back.
The government announced £1 billion in catch-up funding last year, of which £650 million would go to schools as a “catch-up premium”, and £350 million would be spent on the National Tutoring Programme.
The NTP funding was initially supposed to be for one year, but the government confirmed last year that the money would in fact cover two years of the programme.
£400m on top of £300m catch-up pledge
Johnson announced last month that an additional £300 million would be spent on catch-up, following the move to partially close schools again in January.
Today’s announcement commits around £400 million in additional funding for catch-up on top of the £300 million pledged by the prime minister, but the DfE was unable to say whether all of the cash is new money from the Treasury.
There are also discrepancies in the funding announcement. The DfE claims £200 million will be used to expand tuition, but within that pledge it is promising £102 million for the 16 to 19 tuition fund, £83 million for the National Tutoring Programme and £18 million for early years support. This comes to £203 million overall.
Of the £700 million in extra funding, £302 million is for the “recovery premium” for state primaries and secondaries, which the DfE claims will be worth £6,000 to the average primary school and £22,000 to the average secondary school.
This will “build on the pupil premium”, according to DfE, but the department has not said whether it will be linked to disadvantaged pupil numbers.
The money will “help schools to bolster summer provision for their students, for example laying on additional clubs and activities, or for evidence-based approaches for supporting the most disadvantaged pupils from September”.
A further £200 million of the funding will be spent on the expansion of the tutoring programme, the government said.
And the remaining £200 million will be “available to secondary schools to deliver face-to-face summer schools”.
Schools can ‘target’ summer schools provision
In terms of summer schools, leaders will be able to “target provision based on pupils’ needs but the government is suggesting they may want to initially target incoming year 7 pupils”, the DfE said.
This is “alongside wider support funded through our holiday activities and food programme across the country”, the DfE said.
Johnson said the “extensive programme of catch-up funding” would “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 Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL headteachers’ union, said it was “frustrating that the £700 million package has been salami-sliced to such an extent that it may reduce its effectiveness”.
“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.
“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.”