Covid-19: £9m to help Reception pupils' language skills

The early years 'catch-up' programme will be funded as part of a wider £1bn to tackle the impact of lost teaching time during the coronavirus lockdown

Tes Reporter

Reception child with teacher

The government is allocating £9 million of covid catch-up funding to a programme aimed at boosting the early language skills of children in their first year of primary school.

Schools in England are being urged to apply for the early years “catch-up” programme to help Reception-aged pupils whose education has been disrupted by the coronavirus.

The funding, part of a previously announced £1 billion fund to tackle the impact of lost teaching time, is designed to help provide schools with training and resources.

It will deliver one-to-one and small group support for five-year-olds, as part of an approach called the Nuffield Early Language Intervention.

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Priority will be given to schools with a high proportion of disadvantaged pupils, the government said.

A government press release said research suggested that children who start school with poor vocabulary are twice as likely to be unemployed as an adult.

Children’s minister Vicky Ford said: “Nurseries and other early years settings have played a huge part in keeping our youngest children safe and supported throughout the pandemic, but too many children have missed out on education at a crucial point in their development.

“Ahead of every pupil returning to the classroom full-time in September, we’re increasing the support available to get them back on track and ready to learn.

“We cannot afford for our youngest children to lose out, which is why this package of support is focused on improving early language skills for the Reception children who need it most, and especially those whose long-term outcomes who have been affected by time out of education.”

Josh Hillman, director of education at the Nuffield Foundation, a charitable trust that funds research in education, said: “The Nuffield Early Language Intervention (Neli) has been proven effective at improving children’s language skills, which are essential for building the foundations of literacy and learning.

“It is necessary now more than ever, as schools try to help pupils most at risk of falling behind.

“Having supported the development and trialling of Neli, and seen its positive effects, the Nuffield Foundation is delighted that the DfE is enabling children in so many primary schools across the country to benefit.”

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