Headteacher says summer schools can't be 'academic sticking plaster'

Secondary schools will be asked to deliver summer schools as part of the Government's multi-million-pound catch-up...

Secondary schools will be asked to deliver summer schools as part of the Government's multi-million-pound catch-up programme for children. - Credit: PA

Headteachers have expressed concern over plans for secondary schools to deliver face-to-face summer schools to help pupils catch up.

Ministers have announced an extra £400m of funding - on top of the £300m pledged in January - to help pupils make up for lost learning time following months of school closures.

The multi-million-pound catch-up programme will give schools the option to run face-to-face summer classes.

The government has said it will be up to schools to decide whether and in what form they run summer schools, how long they will be and which pupils will be invited to attend.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson said: “What it does do is it gives schools the extra resource to be able to give extra pay for teachers to do overtime, support staff to do overtime, to help them assist with children to do that extra learning, that extra support that helps children to be able to bounce back from this pandemic."

All pupils are set to return to school and college from March 8.

All pupils are set to return to school and college from March 8. - Credit: PA

With all pupils set to return from March 8, the government has also not ruled out lengthening school days or shortening summer breaks to help pupils catch up from months of coronavirus disruption, he added.

Headteachers and teaching unions called the additional funding a "good start" - but warned about overwhelming pupils and teachers.

Jim Adams, chief executive of Clarion Academy Trust, and joint chair of Educate Norfolk.

Jim Adams, chief executive of Clarion Academy Trust, and joint chair of Educate Norfolk. - Credit: Archant

Jim Adams, chief executive of Clarion Academy Trust, which oversees Hobart High School in Loddon and Pakefield High, near Lowestoft, and joint chair of Educate Norfolk, said: “Summer schools have been promoted before. There is very little evidence that they work. 

“My main concern is that the children who would benefit most from this provision will not be the ones who attend. I worry that this is more about grabbing headlines than trying to support our most vulnerable children and families. 

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“Any summer provision needs to support child development in its broadest sense. Sport, the arts and allowing for safe social interaction. It should not simply be an academic 'sticking plaster'.”

Extra funding has been announced to help children who have had learning disrupted by school closures and months...

Extra funding has been announced to help children who have had learning disrupted by school closures and months of homeschooling. - Credit: PA

As part of the recovery package, summer provision will be introduced for pupils who need it the most, potentially starting with pupils moving up to Year 7, whilst one-to-one and small group tutoring schemes will be expanded.

The programme includes a one-off £302m for both primary and secondary schools to support disadvantaged pupils - which could include running additional clubs and activities in the summer.

And £200m will fund an expansion of existing tuition programmes for students - including the National Tutoring Programme - as well as funding additional language support for pre-school children.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL head teachers' union.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL head teachers' union. - Credit: Archant

Former Suffolk head Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL head teachers' union, said it was "frustrating" that the funding had been "salami-sliced to such an extent that it may reduce its effectiveness".

He said: "It is vital that schools are able to decide on how they use the recovery premium based on their knowledge of pupils’ needs.”

Mr Adams added: “Additional funding will always be welcome. However, it's disappointing that schools aren't being given more flexibility in the way they can use that money. 

“Tutoring can play its part, but children benefit most from high quality teaching and learning in the classroom. If the funding was channelled into the classroom, the impact would be greater.”

Kevin Ward, vice principal of Open Academy in Norwich and chair of the Norwich Opportunity Area transition group, which already runs summer education provision, said: “The extra funding announced is welcome as there is such a huge need as we re-start face to face education for the majority.”  

Jon Ford, Principal of Open Academy in Norwich.

Jon Ford, Principal of Open Academy in Norwich. - Credit: Open Academy, Norwich DNEAT

He added: “I hope the funding will be accessible flexibly enough for schools to use to target what we know about our own communities, students, and their specific needs and in particular to support real world learning opportunities to start moving children from online experiences back to real world interaction.”

Open Academy principal Jon Ford said: “Funding for schools is always welcome and this funding for summer schools is a good idea as effective transitions are key to success in the next step of learning.”

The extra funding comes after prime minister Boris Johnson appointed Sir Kevan Collins as the education recovery commissioner earlier this month to oversee the Government's catch-up programme for pupils.

Sir Kevan said: "We know that ensuring all children and young people can make up for lost learning will be a longer-term challenge, and the range of measures announced today are an important next step."

The government has also not ruled out lengthening school days or shortening summer breaks to help pupils catch up.

The government has also not ruled out lengthening school days or shortening summer breaks to help pupils catch up. - Credit: PA

Mr Adams said he was not convinced that the “language currently being used around schools is helpful”. 

“Using phrases like 'catch-up' and 'falling behind' only serves to cause anxiety,” he said. “We are living through a global pandemic, the children in this country are not generally falling behind anybody. 

“That is not to say that some groups of children are not struggling, but that has more to do with long-standing societal issues.”

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