Any additional funding is always gratefully received in education and the current catch-up funding falls into this category.
Everyone in education will agree additional support is required, whether you would agree that what is on offer is enough is another discussion. The premium of £80 per student for schools of all phases, £240 for Alternative Provisions, special and hospital schools is based upon October 2020 census numbers.
The guidance is available at Catch up premium - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) and outlines that the premium is part of the government’s intention to invest £1 billion in additional funding to schools.
All local authority schools and academies will have an allocation and an expectation to produce a plan for their school cohort. There is no prescriptive plan regarding what it is spent on, just an expectation that it will be used to fund specific activities aimed at supporting students to catch up on missed education.
The Education Endowment Foundation (EFF) advises on the types of activities to achieve the desired outcomes. Guidance written in conjunction with unions, The Sutton Trust, National Governors Association and Teach First can be found here.
Some of the strategies suggested are supported by other initiatives. For instance, ICT was supported through the recent laptops for schools, where they have been able to access a significant number of laptops and internet dongles supporting students in accessing online learning.
The DfE funded programme for Summer Schools is now open for registration. This funding is in addition to providing for new Year 7 students in readiness for starting in secondary education in September 2021, all with an education catch up focus and benefiting the primary sector, offering catch up for their Year 6 pupils and aiding transition.
As a School Business Leader, I am wary of ‘one-off’ injections of money and am conscious that they are time limited and not sustainable.
Experience teaches me to be involved in the discussions around the spend of this money right from the outset. Extreme enthusiasm around the receipt of extra funds needs to be managed so that it is spent in a time-relevant manner.
School funding guidance
As someone who is old enough to have worked with standards funds back in the noughties, I am always concerned at what stipulations come with any new funding. I still have the shivers when I remember the guidance that was our bible with standards funds and the implications of late funding and deadlines.
The directed but advisory approach is supported by an expectation that schools, academies and trusts will have the use of the funding monitored in any Ofsted visits and also on websites. Governors are also encouraged to be involved with the planning and use of the premium including measuring outcomes.
The National Tutoring Programme is available for all schools and supports many of the initiatives suggested by EEF. One of these is the Early Years package to help the language gap caused by Covid-19 which is aimed at reception age pupils.
Up to £9 million is available for the programme to provide schools with training and resources, helping them deliver one-to-one and small-group support for five-year-olds whose spoken language skills may have suffered as a result of the pandemic. This is in addition to the basic premium. Details are available at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/early-years-support-package-to-help-close-covid-language-gap.
Value for money
The National Tutoring Programme (NTP) will make high-quality tuition available to state-maintained primary and secondary schools, providing additional support to help pupils who have missed out the most as a result of school closures.
This consists of two streams, the first is NTP tuition partners who can be accessed at nationaltutoring.org.uk/ntp-tuition-partners.
Entering your school details will inform you of who your partner organisation is and they will put you in touch with tutors who will offer heavily subsidised tuition for identified pupils. This is enhanced by a programme of Academic Mentors for schools in the most disadvantaged areas
Schools may choose to put in place their own version of support using current staff or sharing expertise with other schools. The benefit being, while the initial cost and intensity of this year’s programme stays in year and attracts the funding, it can inform what the school wants to and can offer in future years.
However, we plan to use this funding as it is clearly going to add value to our students’ learning. Whether in the longer term we can negate the damage to their education that Covid-19 has caused remains to be seen.
Sue Birchall is a consultant, speaker, writer, trainer and business manager at The Malling School, Kent.