PLANS to offer pupils up to 100 million hours of tuition as part of a catch-up programme for children whose education has been disrupted due to Covid are a ‘monumental failure’ according to a North-East union representative.

The Department for Education (DfE) has announced an additional £1.4 billion of funding – on top of the £1.7 billion already pledged for catch-up – to help pupils make up for lost learning following months of school closures.

As part of the recovery package, some Year 13 students will be given the option to repeat their final year if they have been badly affected by Covid.

Schools and colleges will be funded by the DfE to help accommodate the additional student numbers.

Education unions have described the funding package as a ‘monumental failure’ and ‘woefully inadequate’.

It was announced as Labour published its two-year £14.7 billion education recovery plan, which called for extracurricular activities to be expanded and mental health support in schools to be improved.

Shadow education secretary Kate Green said the Government’s scheme “makes a mockery of the Prime Minister’s claim that education is a priority”.

The DfE programme includes £1 billion to support up to six million, 15-hour tutoring courses for disadvantaged pupils, as well as an expansion of the 16-19 tuition fund which will target subjects such as maths and English.

A further £400 million will go towards providing high-quality training to early years practitioners and school teachers to ensure children progress.

But the announcement – which was made during the half-term – does not include plans to lengthen the school day, or shorten the summer break.

Emma Parker, Durham representative of the National Education Union, says plans are ‘too little too late’ and do not consider poverty, families and extracurricular activities that may impact learning.

She said: “The £1.4 billion is woefully inadequate and falls way below the £15billion Kevin Collins, the education recovery tsar, judged was needed to support our pupils impacted by Covid.

“This is a monumental failure by government. Our children, young people and their families deserve much, much more.

“Local authorities in the North-East have seen an alarming increase in child poverty; with all 12 local authorities seeing the steepest rise nationally in the End Child Poverty analysis. Where are the plans to support families? Hungry children don’t learn.

“Where is the funding for extra-curricular activities to support our children to regain their confidence in their talents and abilities?

“At a time when we are seeing a significant rise in children suffering from mental health conditions, we are also faced with huge waiting lists for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services and our schools and colleges are making experienced staff redundant due to ridiculously low school budgets and Covid costs.

“Our children need understanding, support, compassion and time.”

Sarah Mulholland, Head of Policy at the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “We’ve heard time and again that education is this government’s top priority for the recovery but these plans are underwhelming to say the least.

“One issue that is yet to be addressed is the fact that tutoring has got a much lower uptake in the North compared with the South - despite children here suffering disproportionately from lost learning days and delays to the government's roll-out of devices.

“The North also faces a far bigger challenge when it comes to the education disadvantage gap, especially in areas with high numbers of long-term disadvantaged families.

"There is a mountain to climb when it comes to getting children back on track with their education, starting with the tutoring programme. Where trusted face-to-face providers such as the Tutor Trust are not available, the most effective solution is to use relevant staff in schools, as well as working with northern universities who have spearheaded local schemes to train up their graduates." 

However, the Government’s education recovery commissioner, Sir Kevan Collins, is still considering long-term proposals to address the impact of Covid on children.

Sir Kevan said: “The pandemic has caused a huge disruption to the lives of England’s children. Supporting every child to get back on track will require a sustained and comprehensive programme of support.

“The investments in teaching quality and tutoring announced today offer evidence-based support to a significant number of our children and teachers. But more will be needed to meet the scale of the challenge.”

The DfE said the next stage will include a review of time spent in school and college and the impact this could have on helping young people. The findings will be set out later in the year to inform the spending review.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), suggested that there had been a battle behind the scenes over funding for education recovery between the Treasury and the DfE.

He said: “This is a hugely disappointing announcement which lets down the nation’s children and schools at a time when the Government needed to step up and demonstrate its commitment to education.

“The amount of money that the Government plans to put into education recovery is insufficient and shows a failure to recognise the scale of learning loss experienced by many pupils during the pandemic – particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“The sum of £1.4 billion may sound like a big figure but it is divided into many different pots, has to be distributed across thousands of schools and millions of pupils, and the delivery processes outlined in the announcement seem incredibly complicated.”