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A collaborative, structured effort is needed
Teachers and partner organisations must come together to help bridge the gap between less affluent pupils and their peers.
Ahead of the reopening of schools next week, research from the Sutton Trust has revealed that school closures have had a disproportionately severe impact on pupils from disadvantaged families. Closing this gap is a long-term task, and will require schools, parents and external partners to work together to support those in need. This is according to Learning Hive, a provider of after-school childcare provision.
New government plans to help children catch up include £200 million to expand the National Tutoring Programme (NTP), alongside an additional £300 million “recovery premium” to help support the most disadvantaged children. While such measures are welcome, a crucial next step is for schools to formulate a clear strategy for reintegrating pupils.
Nayeer Afzal, Programme Director at Learning Hive, said:
“When schools reopen fully on 8th March, millions of disadvantaged children will be far behind their peers. Extra funding is a positive step, but teachers still face the monumental challenge of making up a huge shortfall with limited time and resources. The NTP provides one option, but recent reports suggest that more needs to be done to ensure the service is cost-effective for schools.
“It’s an unprecedented situation, so it’s important that schools engage all the options available to them. Working more closely with external partners will go a long way towards alleviating the burden on teachers, while ensuring children get the extra support they need.”
Summer schools have been cited as one of the most likely measures employed to help make up for lost learning time. However, research by the Education Endowment Foundation has suggested that making these work could be a challenge, due to teacher burnout and low uptake amongst disadvantaged pupils.
Afzal added: “This is a specific area where we believe engaging with external providers – who have experience in operating during summer periods and with disadvantaged families – has merits.
“Summer camps, for example, are something that we at Learning Hive have run to great success in the past, through offering high-quality tuition to children at no extra cost to schools or low-income families. Such programmes also aim to offer a viable alternative to schemes such as the NTP. The idea is for such schemes to dovetail with the school curriculum, working in partnership with teachers while taking some of the pressure off them.”
She concluded: “Reintegrating pupils into education is one of the greatest challenges the sector has faced in decades, so a unified approach is needed if we are to safeguard the futures of disadvantaged children. By embracing a strategy of close collaboration between schools and tuition providers, we stand the best possible chance of achieving this goal.”