School day could be extended alongside summer lessons for UK pupils

British government announces extra £400 million for students to catch up with lost learning after lockdown

Children in Britain could have their school day extended, as well as lessons in summer, under new government plans for education. Getty
Children in Britain could have their school day extended, as well as lessons in summer, under new government plans for education. Getty

Britain’s Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has not ruled out extending the school day alongside the introduction of face-to-face lessons during summer to help pupils who have fallen behind in the pandemic.

The UK government on Wednesday pledged £400 million ($567m) on top of the £300m announced for catch-up education in January.

England’s primary and secondary schools, which closed on January 5 as part of the latest lockdown measures, are expected to reopen on March 8.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the extra funding would help to ensure all children can catch-up with missed schooling.

“Teachers and parents have done a heroic job with home-schooling but we know the classroom is the best place for our children to be," he said. "When schools reopen and face-to-face education resumes on March 8, our next priority will be ensuring no child is left behind as a result of the learning they have lost over the past year."

About £200m has been set aside for one-to-one teaching during summer for pupils who need it most, starting potentially with those who will be moving from primary to secondary school this year.

Schools will have access to a one-off £302m “premium recovery” fund to boost summer lessons, clubs and activities.

An expanded national tutoring programme and extended tuition fund of £200m will be in place for students aged 16 to 19, with £18m to support language development.

Each primary school will receive an extra £6,000, with the average secondary school getting £22,000 in recovery premium payments, the Department for Education said.

Mr Williamson did not rule out extending the school day or shortening holidays. "We'll be looking at how we can boost and support children in a whole range of different manners,” he told Sky News on Wednesday.

"But it's not just about time in school, it's about supporting teachers in terms of the quality of teaching and how we can help them."

However, Prof Lee Elliot Major from the University of Exeter warned that recovery from the pandemic in schools would take at least a decade.

“Our research shows that a whole generation could be educationally scarred by this pandemic,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “Remember there were already huge inequalities before the pandemic hit. This really is a fight for our future.”

Shadow education secretary Kate Green said the new package was less than the £840m spent on the Eat Out to Help Out restaurant scheme last year. She said the funding was “not adequate and will not make up for the learning and time with friends that children have lost".

Teachers unions welcomed the funding but said there was a long way to go for pupils most affected by lockdown.

Geoff Barton, from the Association of School and College Leaders, called for all of the money to be given to schools, colleges and early-years providers.

"The best way of ensuring that catch-up work is well-resourced is surely to maximise the amount of money available to providers to spend on the approaches that work best for their pupils," he said.

Glyn Potts, a head teacher at Blessed John Henry Newman Catholic College in Oldham, north-west England, described the “eye-wateringly difficult” challenge for schools operating new Covid-19 testing requirements when pupils return.

“To turn round and say we’ll have a fully operationally traditional education system at the same time as operating a testing system will be a huge challenge,” he said.

Updated: February 24, 2021 01:08 PM


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