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Labour calls for a national ‘Close the Gap’ strategy for students to catch-up

Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary

@UKLabour calls for a national #CloseTheGap strategy for school and college catch-up as studies suggest Covid closures have significantly widened gaps between students 

Labour has called on the Government to give parents a “cast-iron guarantee” that no schoolchild will be left behind as a result of Covid, as studies suggest a major widening of the attainment gap between pupils due to school closures.

Ahead of a visit by Labour Leader Keir Starmer and Kate Green to a primary school in Hitchin, Hertfordshire on Thursday, Labour has called for a national strategy for schools catch-up – monitored by an independent body – and a new legal requirement to publish data on the attainment gap.  

The intervention comes as studies suggest the attainment gap between the most disadvantaged students and their peers has been significantly worsened by school closures.

Research from the National Foundation for Educational Research published on Tuesday showed a widening attainment gap, with pupils in deprived schools three times more likely to be four months behind in their studies than more affluent peers.

Previous studies have found school closures may have widened the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their classmates by up to 75 per cent, and that the largest gaps appear to be emerging between primary aged pupils.

Kate Green has urged Minsters to guarantee parents that their children will be able to make up for the learning they have lost since schools closed in March. Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary also criticised a “summer of incompetence” on education after the results fiasco, failure to deliver promised summer catch up schemes and delays to the promised national tutoring programme.

Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, commenting, said:

“The Government’s incompetence this summer put a generation’s future at risk. Unless Ministers finally get a grip, with a national strategy for catch-up, many more children risk being robbed of their future.

“Parents need a cast-iron guarantee that any child who has fallen behind will get the support they need to catch up. We need independent oversight and transparency, to compare the gap between pupils in different parts of the country and against the pre-Covid generation.

“The last six months have been incredibly difficult for children and families across the country. No child should be left behind because of this crisis or government incompetence.”

Labour is calling for a range of new measures to ensure that no child in the “COVID Generation” is left behind. This includes

  • A national strategy for Covid-19 catch up to tackle the widening attainment gap;
  • Oversight by an independent body – such as the Children’s Commissioner – to hold the government to account on their progress every year;
  • A new legal duty to ensure better data is published on the attainment gap so that we understand the problem. This would include publication at a local authority level, and between pre and post-Covid cohorts;
  • Urgently review the support available for post-16 students, so that pupils preparing to sit their A-Levels are not left without the support they need

A study from the Data Evaluation and Learning for Viral Epidemics (DELVE) group found the largest gaps emerging between primary aged pupils.

Analysis from the Education Endowment Foundation suggested school closures may have widened the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their classmates by up to 75 per cent. 

The Government’s £350 million national tutoring programme won’t be fully operational until Spring, and pupils will not be able to benefit from tutors until November, a full eight months after schools initially closed

The Prime Minister previously promised a “massive catch-up operation” over summer, but there was no additional support provided for children during the summer holidays.

The cross-party Education Select Committee has called for Post-16 students to receive catch-up support.

The Government have listed all schools eligible for the catch-up premium, and this does not include post-16 provision, meaning pupils entering Year 13 will not be eligible.

The list of eligible institutions is:

    • primary, secondary and all through local authority-maintained schools, academies and free schools
    • local authority-maintained special schools
    • special academies and free schools
    • special schools not maintained by a local authority
    • pupil referral units
    • alternative provision academies and free schools
    • local authority-maintained hospital schools and academies
    • independent special schools

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