Summer school catch-up classes insufficient, say heads and Labour

Nearly three-quarters of secondary schools in England are offering activities and catch-up classes for children this summer, according to figures announced as part of a £200m scheme supported by the Department for Education.

But Labour and school leaders said the summer scheme and other elements of the government’s catch-up programme were inadequate to deal with the scale of the problem caused by millions of children missing school since March last year.

The DfE said more than 2,800 mainstream state secondary schools – 74% of the total – have signed up to provide “a mixture of academic and extracurricular activities” before the start of the new academic year in September.

Nick Gibb, the schools minister, disse: “We have invested £3bn so far in helping children catch up ahead of the next academic year and summer schools are an integral part of the overall effort to recover from the disruption caused by the pandemic.”

The DfE said schools are expected to target their programmes at children most in need of catch-up, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds or entitled to free school meals. Pupils going into Year 7 in September have also been encouraged to attend to ease their move from primary school.

But Kate Green, the shadow education secretary, accused ministers of showing “a staggering lack of ambition for our children’s futures”, criticising the scheme for the small numbers of children involved.

“More children are leaving school without any catch-up support than will attend a summer school this year, providing yet more evidence of the Conservatives’ failure to deliver on their promises on children’s recovery,” Green said.

While the DfE claims that 540,000 children are registered to take part in the summer schools, Labour said that was equivalent to just one in 15 state school pupils and fewer than the 560,000 pupils who left school this year without any catch-up support.

Natalie Perera, chief executive of the Education Policy Institute, said the government was wrong to restrict the funding to narrow numbers of children.

“Summer schools are a vital part of the education recovery process, but the government’s programme is limited as it is only targeted at a small subset of pupils," lei disse.

“Supporting those pupils transitioning into Year 7 is important, but we need to see summer schools open to pupils in all year groups, including those in primary schools.

“In order to recover the months of lost learning experienced by pupils, we estimate that the government needs to spend closer to £2bn over the next three years on summer schools – that’s 10 times what they’ve currently committed to.”

The EPI estimates that a three-year funding package worth £13.5bn will be needed to fill the gaps in children’s learning resulting from the pandemic. Labour has said it would spend £15bn on school catch-up programmes.

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