The government’s catch-up plans for education will “disappoint” colleges and their students, the chief executive of the Association of Colleges has warned, with the Sixth Form Colleges Association adding that the measures fall “well short” of what was required.
Their comments came after the Department for Education announced a range of measures, including an expansion of the 16-19 Tuition Fund and an option for schools and colleges to let Year 13 students add a year to their studies if needed.
David Hughes, chief executive of the AoC, said the plans for the next steps of the Covid education recovery plan “will disappoint colleges and students with the least amount of time left in education”. “The extension of the tuition funding is good news but the failure to fund additional teaching hours or to extend the pupil premium to age 18 means that many disadvantaged students may fall through the gaps," he said. "Our young people (aged 16 to 18) have far fewer contact hours than their peers in other OECD [Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development] countries and this was a missed opportunity to address that. Without further investment, the government is risking the potential of a generation of young people."
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Today, the government announced a range of measures, including £1 billion to support up to 6 million 15-hour tutoring courses for disadvantaged schoolchildren, as well as a £222 million extension to the existing 16-19 tutoring programme, expected to deliver around 700,000 courses each year.
Covid catch-up plans for FE colleges
It also announced that schools and colleges will be able to let some Year 13 students repeat the year if they have been particularly badly affected by the pandemic. They will be funded by the DfE to help accommodate the additional student numbers.
The 16-19 Tuition Fund was set up last summer to help colleges and all other 16 to 19 providers to mitigate the disruption to learning caused by the coronavirus. The initial £96 million was ringfenced for 2020-21 to support small-group tuition for 16 to 19 students in English, maths and other courses where learning had been disrupted. In February, £102 million was committed as part of a wider education catch-up package for England to extend the fund for another year.
Prime minister Boris Johnson said this week that young people had sacrificed so much over the past year and as the country built back from the pandemic, no child must be left behind. Education secretary Gavin Williamson added that this is the third major package of catch-up funding in 12 months and it demonstrates that the government is taking a long-term, evidence-based approach to help children of all ages.
Bill Watkin, chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, said: “Covid has caused enormous disruption to the education of sixth-form students. Valuable teaching time has been lost, extracurricular and social activities have been scaled back, and the mental health of many young people has suffered as a result.
“In that context, today’s announcement falls well short of the comprehensive package of support that is required to ensure that no young person is left behind by Covid. These measures, little more than an extension of the small-scale 16-19 Tuition Fund and the promise of additional funding for students that wish to repeat a year, will only address the needs of a very small number of students.
“More information is needed, but, ultimately, it would appear that the government has missed the opportunity to introduce the bold measures necessary to start repairing the damage caused by Covid. It is vital that ministers grasp the nettle in the spending review later this year and introduce the serious additional investment that is required to meet the needs of sixth form students”.