‘Covid catch-up’ will become the next education buzzword, but what exactly will it entail for pupils, teachers and schools?

Whether it is to catch up on attainment, employability skills, sports, drama, social opportunities, future loss of earnings and more there will be a pressure on teachers, pupils and school leaders in the years ahead.

With many teachers already burnt out from the workload during the pandemic, the covid-catch up plan from the Department for Education (DfE) will need the support of the profession to effectively deliver it on the ground. 

The precise details on potentially extending the school day, summer schools and changes to the school calendar haven’t been published yet, but many teachers and parents are anxious about the implications. 

We’ve already had teachers enquiring whether increasing the hours they work during the day or the reduction of the summer holidays will be a breach of their employment contract and the conditions set out in the School Teachers Pay and Conditions Document. Many teachers are also parents so reforms to the school day and calendar will need to take that into consideration.

It will be interesting to see how Directed Hours might be distributed and what will be the impact of Working Time Regulations.

Covid catch-up: what has the government announced?

The government has announced £1 billion of funding to support children and young people to catch up lost time after school closure. It explains it is especially important for children from the most vulnerable and disadvantaged backgrounds. This funding includes:

  • A one-off universal £650 million catch up premium for the 2020 to 2021 academic year to ensure that schools have the support they need to help all pupils make up for lost teaching time
  • A £350 million National Tutoring Programme to provide additional, targeted support for those children and young people who need the most help, which includes:

We’ve written more about the covid-catch up premium in the following support article.

Covid catch-up: extending the school day

The government has also appointed a new ‘education recovery’ commissioner. Sir Kevan Collins has said Covid innovations such as virtual classes can be used to extend the school day and drive the catch-up challenge. 

In a recent Schools Week Q and A article, responding to the question, ‘How do you envisage schools could extend their day or terms? Sir Kevan responded:

“I think the language for me is – I’d hope it doesn’t sound too pedantic – but I’m interested in extending the learning opportunities and time for children. So, the idea that it’s no more than just tagging on an extra lesson doesn’t seem to me to be as creative as we should be thinking but the learning time includes learning in sport, the drama, the art – the kind of things that go around – that is learning. And that’s important learning.”

“We saw last year that when we did the study two years ago on breakfast clubs in schools for our youngest children, we saw all children make two months more progress where we provided breakfast clubs as we support the children at the earliest stages so all children benefited from those children getting a breakfast that really needed it.”

The responses seem to be hinting at a locally led recovery and it will be each school’s decision to decide how best to catch-up on lost learning. This could include charities and volunteers running out-of-hours classes and extracurricular activities, meaning teachers may not be required to stay late. 

So rather than an additional period 6 or 7 to the school day, schools could implement an online learning hour, so pupils and school staff aren’t physically on the school site. 

Covid-catch-up: summer schools

It has also been reported that summer schools could be one of the interventions that schools could decide to implement. 

The question of how many school staff will be needed, if it will be voluntary or compulsory hasn’t been answered yet. In addition, there are many variables in making summer schools successful, from ensuring high attendance from the pupils who need it the most, support from parents to the content of what actually will be taught. Will it be targeted provision for maths and English, or will schools deliver the full breath of the curriculum?

Geoff Barton, leader of ASCL has said:

Many schools already ran after-school activities and summer holiday clubs – and that any “blanket requirement” to force children to stay in school for longer would have “diminishing returns”.

It is certain there will be some form of summer provision provided by schools but what it will look like will differ from setting to setting.

Covid-catch up: 1-1 tuition

The National Tutoring Programme will provide additional support to schools to help disadvantaged pupils whose education has been most affected by school closures.

The NTP was developed to support schools in responding to the immediate challenge of school closures due to the coronavirus pandemic and to provide a longer-term contribution to closing the attainment gap.

The National Tutoring Programme should have little impact on staffing as schools are essentially outsourcing provision to tuition partners.

THE DfE has said it was aiming to provide 15 hours subsidised tutoring to about 450,000 disadvantaged pupils.

Will it be a long summer ahead?

The coming weeks will be interesting to see how school staff and the wider sector react to the plans of schools reopening, the covid-catch up plans and accountability measures.

From early indications, it seems that the majority of teachers won’t be required to physically teach extra classes into the early evening on site and summer schools could be run by charity/voluntary organisations. Schools will have the autonomy to decide on the most effective way to implement covid-catch up plans according to their local demands.

If you are an Edapt subscriber you can contact us for further advice and support when school reopening plans are announced.

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