‘Summer catch-up' won't fix achievement gap, say heads

Pupil catch-up premium and ‘sustainable long-term plan’ rather than 'quick fix' needed to narrow attainment gap, says union

summer schools not enough

School leaders are challenging the idea that a summer catch-up can make up for pupils' absence from school under lockdown.

As education secretary Gavin Williamson prepares to announce plans for a “huge amount” of summer catch-up this week, the NAHT school leaders’ union warns there is “no quick fix” and that more intervention is needed.

General secretary Paul Whiteman called for a “sustainable, long-term plan" that draws on the teachers' knowledge.

Read: PM promises a ‘huge summer of catch up' for pupils

Related: 'Open schools over summer holidays'

Coronavirus: 'Pay teachers to work in summer schools'

Mr Whiteman said the government should give "serious consideration" to a ‘catch-up premium’ to allow schools “to focus on activities that are proven to work.”

This echoes calls by Robert Halfon, MP and chair of the Commons Education Select Committee, who last month called for a catch-up premium of around £700-per-pupil to pay for extra tuition for disadvantaged pupils.

Last week, prime minister Boris Johnson revealed plans were being drawn-up for pupils to catch up missed work over the summer.

He said: “What we’ll be doing is a huge amount of catch up for pupils over the summer months and the secretary of state will be announcing and setting out a lot more next week about the catch-up programme.”

But Mr Whiteman said today: “We continue to challenge notions of 'catching up over the summer', which completely underplays the scale and the nature of the challenges likely to be faced because of prolonged absence from school. There is no quick fix.

"Instead we need a sustainable, long-term plan that draws on the wealth of knowledge within the profession about how to narrow achievement gaps, and serious consideration of a ‘catch-up premium’ to allow schools to focus on activities that are proven to work."

The NAHT also called on the government to produce for “a detailed, coherent plan” as soon as possible setting out how schools will return in September.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:  “We will do whatever we can to make sure no child, whatever their background, falls behind as a result of coronavirus.

“The government has already committed over £100 million to support children to learn at home, and pupil premium funding at the highest ever rate per pupil continues to be paid to help schools support their disadvantaged pupils.

“Many schools have begun welcoming children from Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 back to the classroom as part of a phased and cautious approach. We are also considering, with a range of partner organisations, what more is required to support all pupils who have been affected by school closures.”

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Dave Speck

Dave Speck is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @Specktator100

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