Secondary schools in England will be asked to consider delivering face-to-face summer schools as part of efforts to help pupils catch up.
An extra £400m in funding has been announced, along with £300m announced for catch-up projects in January.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the money will help ensure “no child is left behind” due to the pandemic.
Teachers, experts and unions called the money a “good start” – but warned about overwhelming pupils and teachers.
The prime minister has confirmed all pupils will return to classrooms from 8 March as part of the first step of a roadmap for easing England’s lockdown.
With secondary school pupils being asked to take three Covid-19 tests in school when they come back, it is likely that secondary schools will have to stagger the return over a few days.National restrictions since last March have led many pupils to lose around half a school year in face-to-face learning, the government said.
As part of the latest announcements, schools will have the option to run summer classes for pupils who need it most, potentially starting with those who will be moving up to Year 7 at secondary school this year.
The government says it will be up to schools to decide how and if they run summer schools, how long they will be, and which pupils will be invited to attend.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said “we’re giving schools the option to be able to draw down on this funding”.
He said the average primary school will also receive around £6,000 in extra money, with the average secondary school getting around £22,000 extra in recovery premium payments.
It would be up to head teachers to decide how to use the money – it could be used, for example to pay teachers for overtime to do extra teaching.
Last year, Mr Johnson announced a £1bn catch-up fund for England, and later appointed Sir Kevan Collins as education recovery commissioner.
In Scotland, the administration has promised £140m in funding to help disadvantaged pupils. Tens of millions of pounds have also been put into catch-up schemes in Wales and Northern Ireland.
The announcement comes as the Treasury has said its levelling-up fund will be extended to the whole of the UK to “help boost growth” in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Chief secretary to the Treasury, Stephen Barclay, said communities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would now all benefit from at least £800m of investment for town centre and high street regeneration, local transport, cultural and heritage projects.
Review on masks
Mr Williamson also said the policy of secondary school pupils in England having to wear masks in classrooms would be reviewed over Easter. Most pupils will have to wear face coverings indoors, including in classrooms where social distancing isn’t possible.
“We’re reviewing that at the Easter holidays to see if that has had a positive impact, and the impact that Public Health England would feel is right, or whether it’s going to continue to be necessary.”
He did not rule out that the policy could remain in place until 21 June, which is the final date in plans to ease lockdown.
The government’s £700m education support package for England includes:
- A one-off £302m “recovery premium” for state primary and secondary schools to boost summer schooling, clubs and activities
- £200m to fund face-to-face secondary summer schools, with teachers in charge of deciding which pupils benefit
- An expanded national tutoring programme for primary and secondary pupils and an extended tuition fund for 16 to 19-year-olds – also worth £200m
- That includes £18m funding to support early-years language development