Disadvantaged pupils could lose out from Government’s £1bn education ‘catch up’ fund

Following the Government’s commitment to a financial package to support schools and provide tutoring for disadvantaged pupils, questions remain on how the money will be used effectively.

Teachers will be tasked with identifying gaps in learning.
Teachers will be tasked with identifying gaps in learning.

The Government has said it will be up to primary and secondary headteachers and staff to identify where learning gaps have arisen within their schools and allocate their share of the £650m ‘catch up’ fund accordingly.

Estimates from the Institute of Fiscal Studies suggest that the money works out to around £80 a pupil when it is spread out evenly. Schools will have discretion over how it is spent.

The funding will start to be paid in the academic year starting in September, meaning schools in the meantime will have to use their own resources to provide catch-up classes over the summer holidays.

Prior to the fund's announcement there had been calls, including from Education Policy Institute, for the money to be weighted towards pupils facing the biggest disadvantage, particularly in the light of inequalities increasing during coronavirus.

Meanwhile the Association of School and College Leaders (ACSL) believes schools should have access to the £350m slice of the funding, for the  National Tutoring Programme targeting disadvantaged pupils.

ACSL general secretary Geoff Barton said:  ‘There is good evidence that one-to-one and small group tuition can benefit learners. Our concerns are over ensuring that this is high-quality provision and how schools can access this programme to complement their own support programmes.

‘There are clearly going to be questions about the planned model for the National Tutoring Programme. Could the £350 million of funding be better used by simply providing it to schools to fund catch-up programmes, rather than subsidising tutoring organisations? 

‘And if schools are expected to pay towards the cost of the tutors how does this square with the fact that school funding has been very uneven for many years and some institutions will have far less capacity to afford these costs?’

Prior to the outbreak of Covid-19, EPI research found that disadvantaged children are already on average one and a half years of learning behind other pupils by the time they take their GCSEs.

Read the report Preventing the disadvantage gap from increasing during and after the Covid-19 pandemic here

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