Just 1 in 15 state school pupils to get summer catch-up help under government plan

·2-min read
Pupils queuing to take a lateral flow test at Archway School in Stroud, Gloucestershire, in March this year (PA)
Pupils queuing to take a lateral flow test at Archway School in Stroud, Gloucestershire, in March this year (PA)

Labour has accused the government of a "staggering lack of ambition" after ministers unveiled their plan for Covid catch-up summer schools.

The government's own catch-up tsar previously said the plan was underfunded and that more assistance was needed if it was to close a growing attainment gap that worsened during lockdown.

Schools minister Nick Gibb on Thursday announced that 74 per cent of "eligible mainstream secondary schools" in England would take part in the government's programme, with over 500,000 pupils set to benefit.

But Labour pointed out that this amounts to just one in 15 state school pupils and is even less than the 560,000 pupils expected to leave school this summer without any catch-up support.

“The Conservatives are showing a staggering lack of ambition for our children’s futures," said Kate Green, Labour’s shadow education secretary.

“More children are leaving school without any catch-up support than will attend a summer school this year, providing yet more evidence of the Conservatives’ failure to deliver on their promises on children’s recovery.

“Labour has set out a bold plan to invest in our children’s futures to compensate for the Conservatives’ failures over the last year, and ensure all children can play, learn and develop post-pandemic. It’s time for the Conservatives to get behind Labour’s plan and match our ambition for children’s futures.”

The government says 2820 secondary schools have signed up to participate, equivalent to just under three quarters of those eligible.

The scheme has been backed by over £200 million investment from the Department for Education.

Sir Kevan Collins, the government's catch-up tsar, resigned last month over a lack of funding for the programme. In his resignation statement he warned of "a half-hearted approach" that "risks failing hundreds of thousands of pupils".

"The support announced by government so far does not come close to meeting the scale of the challenge and is why I have no option but to resign from my post," he added at the time.

Announcing the latest figures from the scheme on Thursday, Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, said: “It’s very good to see so many children will now have the opportunity to enjoy clubs and activities this summer, building friendships and supporting their mental and physical health, alongside their educational progress.”

“We have invested £3 billion so far in helping children catch up ahead of the next academic year and summer schools are an integral part of the overall effort to recover from the disruption caused by the pandemic."

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