The government's budget for school Covid catch-up resources –including sequenced lessons, formative assessment and workbooks – has more than trebled, new documents show.
An updated procurement notice from the Department for Education (DfE), published at the beginning of this month, shows that the value of the contract to provide "in-class curriculum resources" has increased significantly since it was first advertised in February – from £3.9 million to a maximum of £15 million.
In an early engagement notice published on 9 February, the DfE said it was looking to spend the £3.9 million on "free in-class and catch-up curriculum resources".
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These would include downloadable "diagnostic tests", intended to "support teachers in identifying gaps in pupil learning, enabling them to identify next steps", the department said.
However, the latest version of the procurement notice, while valuing the upper end of the contract at nearly four times the initial estimate, outlines slightly different, more specific expectations, with no mention of "diagnostic tests".
The department is still seeking a supplier to design, develop and deliver a range of free in-class resources – but there are some minor changes to the length of the contract.
The previous notice said the £3.9 million tender was an estimate based on a potential contract term of 15 months (a three-month implementation period followed by a one-year delivery period).
The latest version of the notice says the contract will start on 7 July 2021 and end on 31 August 2022 – working out at just under 14 months.
However, this term may be extended by 12 months, the department said.
The notice states: "The in-class curriculum resources are to be available for use by schools and teachers by 6 September 2021 and 3 January 2022. The initial contract term shall cover a short implementation period from contract award and the entirety of academic year 2021-22."
The DfE said the in-class resources should be "freely available", "accessible on demand" and "non-mandatory", and hosted on a "suitable, digital platform", provided and maintained by the chosen supplier.
They should cover English, maths and science at key stages 1, 2, and 3 as a "minimum", the department added.
According to the contract, these resources should include:
- Key stage, year and unit level overviews for each subject area.
- Sequenced units and lessons, including a narrative and rationale for the sequencing.
- Lesson slides, including appropriate content, formative assessment, independent tasks, stretching text, questioning and specialist vocabulary.
- Accompanying workbooks and worksheets (or equivalent) for pupils, including stretching text.
- Accompanying guidance for teachers on how to use the resources effectively.
- Accompanying optional homework, to consolidate prior knowledge and support appropriate pre-learning gaps, rather than introduce new content.
The notice states: "Effective curriculum design is a complex undertaking, requiring specialist expertise. Ofsted have often reported on the quality of curriculum planning in schools, concluding that a more thoughtful approach to curriculum is often needed.
"The department's teacher development reforms reflect this challenge, with our new ITT Core Content Framework, Early Career Framework and National Professional Qualifications, ensuring that teachers and school leaders gain the necessary curriculum planning expertise throughout and at the right stage of their career.
"As a result of Covid-19, the wider education landscape has changed and learning loss is prevalent and extensive. The need for high-quality curriculum resources has increased and there is also a need to support teachers with effective curriculum planning to help drive positive pupil outcomes and further education recovery."
The DfE has been approached for comment.