Covid catch-up funds won't reach all who need support

Around 70 per cent of colleges will receive at least £100,000 extra funding from the National Tuition Fund to tackle disruption in learning

Kate Parker

Covid-19: Catch-up funds won't reach all disadvantaged

The extra Covid-19 catch-up funding for colleges may not reach all students in need of support, the Association of Colleges’ senior policy manager Catherine Sezen has said. 

Last week, the Education Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) announced £96m for colleges as part of the National Tuition Fund in a bid to mitigate against any disruption in learning due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The ESFA announced that each provider will receive £150 “per instance” for full-time students who need to resit GCSE maths or English, based on the numbers in their current 2020-2021 academic year allocation. Colleges could, therefore, receive up to £300 extra per each student. Funding for part-time students will be prorated. 

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Ms Sezen said that around half of the colleges in England should get more than £200,000 – and 70 per cent should get more than £100,000. 

She said: “They will be able to use this to do small group work with students not just in English and maths, but also in their vocational subjects to help them with the time they have lost.

“There are a few challenges. The first is that it came out quite late. It would have been so much better if we had known about it when the support for schools came out. A lot of colleges have now set their budgets for September. It is going to require quite a lot of planning in a short amount of time.”

Ms Sezen said there would be young people in colleges who were not classed as disadvantaged, but who would have benefitted from additional support – but colleges will not be receiving funds for these learners.

“Colleges would have liked more flexibility, but this is good news. It is something. It is an acknowledgement that those students may well not have had much engagement with schools since March and therefore the gap in learning will be even greater.”

'GCSE performance is just one proxy for disadvantage'

Bill Watkin, chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, agreed and said that the ESFA needed to remember that it is not just those with lower levels of English and maths attainment that are in need of additional support. 

He said: “This is a welcome initiative to support students that have faced significant disruption to their learning as a result of the Covid crisis. There are also many young people with tremendous academic ability and potential who come from the most disadvantaged communities and families whose learning has suffered in recent months. 

“GCSE performance is just one proxy for disadvantage so we are glad that colleges will have the flexibility to support students on other courses that would benefit from additional tuition.”

Colleges will receive the funding in November. Bill Jones, principal of Leeds City College, said that he didn’t mind if the funding came later – as long as the college received it. 

He said: “The funding is welcome, of course, and we don’t mind that the funding will come in November even though we’ll want to start the provision earlier, as long as we receive it eventually.

"We also welcome the other funding announcements and flexibilities, such as the employer incentives to take on apprentices and the high-value courses for school and college leavers.”

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Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a FE reporter.

Find me on Twitter @KateeParker

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