Up to six million pupils are set to benefit from catch-up support for lost learning over the next three years under a “tutoring revolution” in schools.
As pupils return to classrooms after the summer, schools in England can sign up with this year’s external tuition providers through the Government’s National Tutoring Programme (NTP).
Academic mentors are being placed in selected schools across the country to work in small groups with more than 250,000 students who are most in need of support.
The Department for Education (DfE) is also due to publish guidance to support schools to offer teacher-led tuition, which is expected to reach over one million students this school year.
Education unions have warned that a relaxation of Covid-19 safety measures this term could lead to rising infections and further disruption to schooling.
An analysis by Labour suggests that pupils have suffered with longer school closures in the UK than almost all other European nations during the pandemic.
But Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “This year we have a greater sense of normality thanks to the rollout of the vaccination programme.
“That extra protection helps us find that sensible balance between protecting staff and students and ensuring education is not disrupted.”
He added: “We are boosting the tutoring that is available to pupils so that millions more can benefit from the support they provide and we see a real tutoring revolution take place in our schools.”
In June, the DfE announced an additional £1.4 billion of funding, on top of the £1.7 billion already pledged for catch-up, to help pupils in England make up for lost learning due to school closures.
The programme included £1 billion to support 15-hour tutoring courses for disadvantaged pupils, as well as an expansion of the 16-19 tuition fund.
All three NTP routes – academic mentors, school-led and external tuition – are now live for this year.
The DfE has said its tutoring programme is expected to reach “up to six million pupils” in England over the next three years.
Last year, 300,000 students were reached by the NTP.
Pupils in England and Wales are starting to return to the classroom this week, and schools in Northern Ireland are now open.
Schools in Scotland have already returned after the summer break and the reopening is believed to have contributed to a rise in cases north of the border.
Schools in England no longer have to keep pupils in year group “bubbles” to reduce mixing and face coverings are no longer advised.
Children do not have to isolate if they come into contact with a positive case of Covid-19. Instead, they will need to get a PCR test and isolate only if positive.
But all secondary school pupils are being invited to take two lateral flow tests at school – three to five days apart – in England on their return to class.
Schools and colleges are being encouraged to maintain increased hygiene and ventilation, and secondary school and college pupils in England have been asked to continue to test twice weekly at home.
Dr Susan Hopkins, Covid-19 strategic response director at Public Health England (PHE), said: “Parents, young people and teachers should feel reassured that the risk from Covid-19 for the majority of children remains low and that schools are not hubs of infection.
“It does remain vital however that we take precautions to ensure that children can return to school safely, with fewer interruptions, including regular testing and enhanced hygiene measures.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said: “While we welcome this investment in educational recovery, we are concerned that the Government’s focus on tuition programmes as the main means of support is too narrow in focus and that it has to take a broader view which provides schools and colleges with a greater level of funding and more flexibility about how it is used.”