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Photo Credit: Jack Hill/The Times/ PA
Photo Credit: Jack Hill/The Times
UK News

Covid catch up: Christian headmaster on board with summer school, but sceptical about Govt funding

by Tola Mbakwe

A Christian headmaster in London has applauded the government for trying to ensure that pupils don't suffer from a learning gap due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Secondary schools will be asked to deliver summer schools as part of the Government's multimillion-pound catch-up programme for children in England who have faced disruption due to Covid-19.

Boris Johnson has announced an extra £400 million of funding - on top of the £300 million pledged in January - to help pupils make up lost learning time following months of school closures.

As part of the recovery package, summer provision will be introduced for pupils who need it the most, such as incoming Year 7 pupils, whilst one-to-one and small group tutoring schemes will be expanded.

The programme includes a one-off £302 million "Recovery Premium" for primary and secondary schools to support disadvantaged pupils - which could include running additional clubs and activities in the summer, or opting for evidence-based approaches to help children from September.

A further £200 million will be available to secondary schools to deliver face-to-face summer schools.

However, Alun Ebenezer, CEO and Executive Headmaster of Fulham Boys School told Premier he's sceptical about whether the funding will be enough. 

"Even though it sounds like a lot of money on the one hand, think about that for all the young people in the UK, then I'm not sure exactly how much that would achieve," he said. 

"I definitely agree with the idea and the principle that we need to help young people who are falling behind to catch up. But that needs to be carefully worked through. I think we know how to do that. When we see our pupils again on 8th March and have a better understanding about what the gaps are and then we can address how we're going to fill those gaps. "

The multi-million-pound package comes after the Government considered a variety of options as part of the catch-up plans for pupils who have missed out - including extended school days and shorter summer holidays.

But both of these proposals, which had been previously described as "policy gimmicks" by the school leaders' union, are not included in the details set out on Wednesday.

As part of the package, £200 million will fund an expansion of existing tuition programmes for students - including the National Tutoring Programme (NPP) - as well as funding additional language support for pre-school children.

Mr Johnson said: "When schools re-open and face to face education resumes on 8th March , our next priority will be ensuring no child is left behind as a result of the learning they have lost over the past year.

"This extensive programme of catch-up funding will equip teachers with the tools and resources they need to support their pupils, and give children the opportunities they deserve to learn and fulfil their potential."

Ebenezer highlighted that academics is not the only area where students need to catch up. 

"One thing this pandemic taught us is education is important, academic success is important, but there's way more to life than these things. As a Christian I believe that," he said. 

"What does it profit them if they gained the whole world and lost their soul?

"So I think mental health, fitness, social interaction, all those things… there's going be a lot of things to do to put those things right, and that's going to take a long time.

Earlier this month, the Prime Minister appointed Sir Kevan Collins as the education recovery commissioner to oversee the Government's catch-up programme for pupils.

Sir Kevan will develop longer term plans for how evidence-based interventions can be used to address the impact of Covid-19 on learning after engaging with schools, colleges, charities, and parents.

Listen to Premier's interview with Alun Ebenezer here: 

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