Schools in England will be allocated a further £400m to help pupils catch up on lost learning, as the government announces plans for a long-term programme of recovery that will begin when children return on March 8.
Pupils will attend summer schools, new clubs or activities, and more tutoring sessions as part of a number of measures targeting the most disadvantaged, announced on Wednesday as a “next step” in tackling education recovery.
Of the further £400m allocated to learning recovery, about £100m will come from existing budgets, the Department for Education said.
Boris Johnson, UK prime minister, said the package, which is in addition to £1bn announced in June and £300m in January, would give teachers the resources to “give children the opportunities they deserve”.
“Our next priority will be ensuring no child is left behind as a result of the learning they have lost over the past year,” he said.
But teachers and education experts said that schools needed substantial additional money and more freedom to choose how to help pupils, while government officials were clear that the catch-up effort would take a number of years.
Kevan Collins, a former teacher who was appointed last month by the government to oversee catch-up efforts, said he would work with schools, families and charities to develop the approach “over the course of this parliament”.
“We know that ensuring all children and young people can make up for lost learning will be a longer-term challenge,” he said. “This is just the beginning.”
Research by the Education Endowment Foundation, a charity, showed that even by last autumn children had fallen two months behind in school, while the gap between disadvantaged children and their peers has widened to seven months.
As part of the government’s response, the average secondary school will receive £22,000 extra in funding as part of a one-off £302m recovery premium, distributed according to the number of disadvantaged pupils. The cash will fund summer activities and “evidence based” approaches for supporting children “who need it most”, the DfE said.
Summer schools for older pupils, initially targeted at those starting secondary school, will also receive a boost. Further help, including an extension of the national tutoring programme, a tuition fund for those aged 16 to 19, and language development for the youngest children will be funded from the £300m announced in January.
Paul Whiteman, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, welcomed the news that headteachers would have freedom on how to use some of the funding. “We need to trust schools,” he said.
However, some leaders warned that more flexibility was needed. Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that earmarking large parts of the available funding for tutoring and summer schools would prove counter productive.
“Our view is that the total sum of the money should go directly to schools, colleges and early-years providers,” he said. “It is vital that schools are able to decide on how they use the recovery premium based on their knowledge of pupils’ needs.”
Other analysts said the total £1.7bn looked small compared with need. Earlier this month, the Institute for Fiscal Studies estimated that children could lose a combined £350bn future income as the result of missed education.
Luke Sibieta, a researcher at he IFS, suggested that £30bn, equal to six months’ spending on schools, was a useful benchmark for how much may need to be spent on “radical and properly resourced ways to help pupils catch up”.
Natalie Perera, chief executive of the Education Policy Institute, a charity, said the direct funding to schools was “too modest to make a serious difference”.