DfE says axed £55m year 7 catch-up premium will now come through national funding formula

The £55 million year 7 catch-up premium has been axed, but the government has said the funding will continue through the new national funding formula.

In an email from the Department for Education issued at 4.30 pm today, headteachers were told the year 7 catch-up premium will be “discontinued”.

The government said ditching the grant had always been its intention, heads say it’s news to them.

The email states the national funding formula coming in next year “provides for schools to attract low prior attainment funding for pupils in year 7 to 11 … who need support to catch up”.

As a result the catch-up grant will “no longer be made available”, it adds.

The email followed the government announcement of a new £1 billion covid catch-up package today. On receiving the email, headteachers were concerned the new funding was actually made up of cash from elsewhere.

The literacy and numeracy catch-up gave state-funded schools, including special schools and alternative provision settings, additional funding to support year 7 pupils who did not achieve the expected standard in reading or maths at the end of key stage 2.

Andy Byers, headteacher of Framwellgate School Durham, tweeted while he understands there’s no way of allocating the premium next year, as SATs are not going ahead because of the coronavirus, he added: “Announcing a new package whilst taking another (others?) away means that “new money” is not quite all “new money”.”

Department data shows that £54 million was allocated to schools under the year 7 catch-up this year.

When asked whether the funding will continue, the department said the pupils who benefited under the scheme will now be provided for through the national funding formula.

However it’s not clear whether the full £55 million will continue.

The email to headteachers stated the government “recognise the unique circumstances surrounding catch-up support for all pupils, and especially the most disadvantaged, this year in light of coronavirus (COVID-19)”, before highlighting the £1 billion support package today.

But the DfE later said the £1 billion is a separate pot of funding.

Another headteacher, who receives £14,000 for each of his two schools under the year 7 catch-up, said it has enabled them to employ a higher level teaching assistant in each school.

He also pointed out that schools have submitted their budgets for next year based on the year 7 catch-up funding continuing.

The department said it had always been its intention to end the premium. They said the national funding formula includes a low prior attainment factor which it said was allocated on a similar basis to the year 7 catch-up premium, but across all five secondary years.

A Department for Education spokesperson added: “This Government is providing the biggest funding boost for schools in a decade, giving every school more money for every child…. These additional funding streams go significantly further in directing support to pupils with lower attainment than the previous year 7 catch up grant.”