THE UK GOVERNMENT has announced a ‘recovery support package’ for children and young people in England as schools and colleges emerge from lockdown.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint General Secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said: “Additional investment is going to be absolutely crucial if we’re going to help schools and colleges plan and arrange enough one to one support and small group work, during this academic year and the next. Learning is going to need to be adapted by staff in all sorts of ways so that young people consolidate learning which has been missed, regain their motivation and succeed in their next stage.

“The £200 million funding for the National Tutoring Programme won’t be anywhere near big enough to meet the learning and social needs the Government have identified, which have been created by Covid disruption.

“The NEU and the Sutton Trust have recommended to Government that £750 million is needed as the first immediate boost to Pupil Premium. Instead, £302 million has been announced. This will not get support to all of the 1.3 million students eligible for free school meals. The number of children and families in poverty is also rising, so more students will need immediate support via schools and colleges. This challenge is too significant to be met with half measures.

“Holiday schemes at Easter and summer with a mix of learning and outdoor sports activities will be welcomed by parents and are sorely needed – but these must be planned and co-ordinated by local authorities. Best value for money will be achieved if local authorities are supported and resourced to plan the holiday provision, building on what already exists in local areas, and drawing in expertise from their local schools, youth groups and adventure playgrounds. The burden should not fall on school leaders to plan holiday learning provision.

“Giving flexibility to schools to use the Recovery Premium in ways that they judge will best support their disadvantaged learners is vital. It is a rare recognition by Government that schools know best.

“Some of the funding in today’s announcement is recycled from previous commitments. What is badly needed is a broader redesign of education policy with proper investment over the next five years to address the education divide. We look forward to working with Sir Kevan Collins on a long-term strategy to respond to the inequality which blights children’s lives.

“Forty per cent of the education attainment gap is set in stone before children even start school – caused by economic disadvantage, a lack of food, of a decent place to live and chronic low pay. Forty-six per cent of Black children are growing up in poverty. What Covid has exposed are the chronic levels of poverty and disadvantage that strike the lives of too many children.

“The education recovery plan will need to tackle issues of poverty, racism and social exclusion honestly. It demands substantially more funding than that announced today. We believe there is broad public support for proper investment to enable a fairer education system so that no children or young people are left behind.”

* Read the Department for Education announcement here.

* Source: National Education Union