Nearly three-in-four eligible secondary schools across England have signed up to host summer schools for pupils who experienced the most disruption to their learning during the Covid pandemic.
The Department for Education (DfE) said 2,820 mainstream secondary schools have signed up for the summer school scheme – which it said represents 74 per cent of the secondaries eligible to do so.
But experts have warned that the programme will only reach a subset of pupils and that summer support is needed across year groups, including in primary schools.
Secondary schools were encouraged to bid for a share of a £200 million government fund for summer schools this year, which is predominantly being targeted towards incoming Year 7 students.
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Earlier this year, the government said summer provision funding would be available to secondary schools, special schools and pupil referral units.
It has not said how many special schools or PRUs have signed up to the programme.
Summer schools will include a variety of academic and enrichment activities, from maths and English lessons to activities designed to build confidence, friendships and improve wellbeing, the DfE said.
But school leaders’ unions have called on the government to boost investment to ensure long-term education recovery from the pandemic.
In February, as part of the £1.7 billion “catch-up” package in England, the government announced a £200 million fund for summer schools this year.
In June, the DfE announced an additional £1.4 billion of funding to help pupils make up for lost learning.
Schools minister Nick Gibb said: “It’s very good to see so many children will now have the opportunity to enjoy clubs and activities this summer, building friendships and supporting their mental and physical health, alongside their educational progress.”
“We have invested £3 billion so far in helping children catch up ahead of the next academic year and summer schools are an integral part of the overall effort to recover from the disruption caused by the pandemic.”
Schools have the freedom to target their summer school programme at children most in need of catch up. This includes children with special educational needs and those entitled to free school meals.
Some of the wellbeing activities planned by schools include theatre trips, sports sessions, team games, sit-down sessions with authors and cooking.
Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “Not every school will have been able to do this, possibly because of the logistics involved in organising and staffing summer schools or possibly because of doubts about take-up among students, or a mixture of both.
“Summer schools are only the start of a much larger process and there needs to be a lot more focus from the government on education recovery once all pupils are back in the classroom.”
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT school leaders’ union, said: “Today’s data shows that a significant number of secondary schools have decided to run a summer school.
“However, it is important to remember that summer schools are only one part of the important recovery work schools are doing and they won’t be right for everybody.
“Leaders will have taken into account the unique needs and characteristics of their communities when making decisions around summer schools.
“We shouldn’t lose sight of the range of other important initiatives schools will be running to support pupils.”
He added: “Everyone in education understands that ‘recovery’ is a long-term project requiring concerted effort and investment. Schools stand ready to undertake this work.
“In order for it to be effective, the Government needs to raise its game when it comes to funding, and provide a much fuller programme of investment over the coming years than we’ve seen so far.”
Natalie Perera, chief executive of the Education Policy Institute (EPI), said: "The government's overall education recovery package of £3.1 billion fails to match the scale of lost learning and is unlikely to be enough to help children to catch up with their education and support their wellbeing.
"Our research has shown that a three-year funding package totalling £13.5 billion will be required to reverse the damage to pupils’ learning as a result of the pandemic.
"Summer schools are a vital part of the education recovery process, but the government's programme is limited as it is only targeted at a small subset of pupils.
"Supporting those pupils transitioning into Year 7 is important, but we need to see summer schools open to pupils in all year groups, including those in primary schools. In order to recover the months of lost learning experienced by pupils, we estimate that the government needs to spend closer to £2 billion over the next three years on summer schools – that's 10 times what they've currently committed to."