Wes Streeting MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Schools

@UKLabour warns Government failing generation of children as new analysis shows pupils will miss out on vital catch-up support  

Today (Tuesday) Labour is warning that the Government risks failing a generation of children as new analysis shows just one in six pupils on Free School Meals, who are most likely to fall behind their peers, will benefit from programmes to help them catch-up on lost learning. 

With 1 million children out of school last week, Labour is calling on the Government to bring forward its planned spending to help pupils catch up on lost learning.

Analysis by Labour shows that: 

  • 1.1 million children on Free School Meals, who are most likely to fall behind their peers, will miss out on support from the National Tutoring Programme, when at full capacity. 
  • Only half of the National Tutoring Programme has been allocated for spending this year, with the scheme now being stretched over two academic years. 
  • Fewer than one in five of the promised mentors are in place as we near the end of the autumn term, with the rest not expected to be in place until Spring 2021; too late for many pupils sitting exams this year. 

In addition to the National Tutoring Programme, the Government announced a one-off universal £650 million catch up premium for the 2020-2021 academic year ‘’to ensure that schools have the support they need to help all pupils make up for lost teaching time’’. 

However, since the government cut funding to help schools cover the costs of making classrooms safe during the pandemic, there are concerns catch-up funding, which is not ring-fenced, is being used to plug holes in schools’ budgets as they struggle to meet these additional costs.

Wes Streeting, Labour’s Shadow Schools Minister raised concerns with Nick Gibb in a Westminster Hall debate on Monday after more than 780,000 people signed petitions raising concerns about the Government’s handling of education during the coronavirus crisis. 

Labour is calling for the Government to bring forward the £1 billion of promised catch up funding, including keeping its promise that the £350 million for the National Tutoring Programme will be available this academic year to ensure thousands of pupils who’ve been forced to miss school during the pandemic do not fall behind. 

Wes Streeting MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Schools, said: 

“It is completely unacceptable that the Government’s plans will see the vast majority of pupils in most need of help unable to get additional tuition to make up for the learning they have lost. 

“The Government is failing to support the children who need it the most, and breaking promises to parents and schools about the funding that will be available. 

“Ministers must urgently get a grip, bring this additional funding forward, and ensure that no pupil misses out on the support they need.” 

School leaders concerned attendance figures will ‘drop off a cliff’ in last week of term  

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

“School leaders are concerned that there will be a further and potentially steep drop in attendance figures next week, as families are forced to decide for themselves how long to isolate before getting together at Christmas.

“The government has decided to relax the rules about getting together over the Christmas holidays in order to give people the chance to see loved ones and have as normal a celebration as possible. This strategy has put schools and parents between a rock and hard place.

“On the one hand, every day of school this year is important because pupils have already missed so much time in class. But on the other, the government has passed responsibility for making careful Covid safety decisions on to parents.

“It is only natural that many parents will prioritise family safety over attending school in the last few days of term and keep their children at home. The government cannot continue to pretend to be oblivious to the consequences of their decision. Once again, government thinking is far behind the impossible decisions facing families.

“We are calling for the government to give schools the flexibility to work with parents and make arrangements that best suit their individual circumstances. Giving schools the flexibility to switch to remote learning for the final few days of term seems an obvious and straightforward solution. But if the government has another solution it needs to be announced in the next twenty-four hours, otherwise there is huge potential for a chaotic and disruptive end to this term.”

In answer to WPQ 91881 the DfE said, ‘’it is expected that they [Tuition Partners] will support around 250,000 pupils over the academic year’’, equating to 17% of children eligible for FSM. 

NTP Support 

Total FSM eligible 

% FSM eligible 

Total FSM benefitting 

Total FSM missing out 

250,000 pupils 

1,440,788 pupils 

17.35162 

250,000 

1,190,788 

Labour analysis of spending outlined shows that only £191 million of the £350 million has been allocated, equating to 55%. 

Funding

£76,000,000 

EEF - Delivery of NTP tuition partners 

£6,400,000 

TF - recruit, train, place mentors 

£96,000,000 

16-19 tuition fund 

£9,000,000 

Reception oral language skills 

£3,572,000 

188 mentors 

£190,972,000 

Total 

The DfE data shows attendance in all state schools stood at 83.5% on 26th November 

On 30th November 2020 the DfE confirmed that the £350 million will cover two years of tutoring, instead of one as first announced. 

DfE said only 188 mentors were in place: 

‘The Department also placed its first 188 mentors with schools to work with pupils that need additional support. We expect to place around 1,000 Academic Mentors, with the remaining mentors starting in schools over the 2021 spring term’.

DfE’s answer to WPQ 116468, which asked whether the Coronavirus (COVID-19) catch-up premium funding is ring-fenced by schools for the provision of catch-up support, confirmed it was not: 

"We expect schools to spend this funding on the additional activities required to support children and young people to catch up after the period of disruption to their education. We know that each school will have different needs as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and schools should tailor the catch-up funding to their specific contexts, and towards the pupils who need it most. We trust our excellent school leaders to make the appropriate decisions for their students to ensure that this money is spent wisely."

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