Gavin Williamson hinted today that children could be spending more time in classrooms after lockdown lifts. This means the summer holidays could be cut and school days may be extended to help disadvantaged children catch up on lost time due to the impact of Covid.
Fearing many will be left behind, the Education Secretary is looking at “the whole expanse of what we can do in terms of helping children have extra teaching time”.
On Monday, Boris Johnson unveiled his roadmap out of lockdown, which includes reopening schools to every pupil on March 8.
Today, the government unveiled a catch-up fund of £700 million for those who have been affected the most with classrooms being closed. An extra £500 million will go towards additional tutoring schemes.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “When schools re-open on 8 March, I want to make sure no child is left behind as a result of the learning they have lost over the past year.”
Teachers may have to sacrifice more of their time to help children catch up. Ministers would prefer year 7’s to get extra support, but headteachers may get to choose which year groups should be priority.
Schools in England will also get a funding of £200 million to pay teachers for the extra classes which can include other activities such as sports.
Gavin Williamson said an extra 2-hours of tutoring each week over a 12-week period could help children catch up on five months of work.
On talking about the extension of the school day and cutting summer holidays, he said: “We’re looking at a whole range of different actions. What we wanted to do is give schools the extra resources to take action immediately.
“The best support we can do is seeing children back in the classroom on March 8 – something all parents want to see, all children want to see, and teachers want to see.
“We are giving schools the option of being able to draw down on this funding, we always see schools up and down the country doing so much of this.
“I would hope that all schools are able to do that. Take advantage of a funding that’s available, target that resource at those children who are most needed.”
He added: “What it does do is it gives schools the extra resource to be able to give extra pay for teachers to do overtime, support staff to do overtime, to help them assist with children to do that extra learning, that extra bit of education, that extra support that goes the extra mile and helps children to be able to bounce back from this pandemic.”
Despite the funding, Downing Street is expecting another row about the plans with hardline unions.
According to The Sun, ministers agree extending the school day would be too complicated for now. This is because unions are demanding for new contracts to be drawn up if teachers will be expected to prolong their work day.
The Pupil premium is a scheme which is already helping the most disadvantaged children, but there will be a £305 million “Recovery Premium” to support children in both primary and secondary schools. Primaries will get about £6,000 each, while secondary schools will receive around £22,000.
Over the next few days, more details will be released about how teacher assessments will be in place of exams. Gavin Williamson stated, “As we’ve said many times before we’re not going to be running exams this year, it’s going to be based on teacher judgement.”
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