The Government has announced a £1 billion package of extra funding for schools in England, to help pupils catch up on teaching missed during the coronavirus lockdown. The package includes £350 million for catch-up tutoring for disadvantaged pupils.
The announcement follows a successful campaign by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP), a cross-party group which represents the voices of business and civic leaders across the North. The NPP called on the Government to implement a catch-up premium to ensure that already-disadvantaged pupils do not fall further behind as a result of temporary school closures.
Grahame Morris MP was one of over fifty MPs and peers who signed a letter, co-ordinated by the NPP, to the Education Secretary in April. The letter proposed a catch-up premium of at least £300m across England, which would equate to £700 for every pupil on free school meals. The money would be used to fund two-and-a-half hours of tuition per pupil for six to twelve weeks.
The letter outlined the urgency of the situation in the North, where two-thirds of England’s schools with high numbers of disadvantaged pupils are situated. Research by Education DataLab for the NPP showed that children from the North are particularly likely to be from economic and ethnic groups that make the slowest progress at secondary school, including white working-class children. It explained that disadvantaged pupils tend to fall behind their peers when schools close for the annual summer holiday, so the closure of schools as a result of coronavirus would only serve to exacerbate this. Signatories argued that the attainment gap, which already affects Northern pupils in particular, would only widen without sufficient government support.
Following the success of the campaign, the NPP are now focused on ensuring that schools have sufficient resources, and trained staff, to implement the tutoring. They are working to ensure that a National Tutoring Service is available in the North, and have been working closely with Sheffield Hallam University and other northern universities to take forward the idea of training recent graduates as tutors and mentors to provide the catch up support needed.
The NPP is hoping that a pilot scheme, launched by Sheffield Hallam University, can be replicated by other Universities in the North to help deliver trained and motivated tutors and mentors so this funding can be properly used. At a cost of around £420 to train a graduate or student to work providing tuition and mentor support, the training can be delivered remotely to those recruited by other Universities to deliver to their students graduating this summer who may otherwise be unemployed.
The NPP are urging Government to address the shortage of trained tutors in the North of England by assisting the recruitment and training of tutors. They are also encouraging other northern universities to recruit and train graduates to provide catch up tuition.
Grahame Morris MP said, “I am delighted that the NPP’s catch-up premium campaign has been successful, and I welcome the funding package announced by the Department for Education. It is now imperative that the government ensure that there are sufficient resources and trained staff to deliver the tutoring. I join the NPP in encouraging other northern universities to implement the scheme that has been trialled at Sheffield Hallam University. The scheme would be invaluable in ensuring that pupils do not fall behind as a result of the lockdown.”