Labour demands pupil 'catch-up' strategy as attainment gap widens after school closures

  • london
  • September 2, 2020
  • Comments Off on Labour demands pupil 'catch-up' strategy as attainment gap widens after school closures

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Labour has demanded ministers give a “cast-iron guarantee” that no child will be allowed to fall behind with their learning as a result of the pandemic school closures.

Some pupils were out of a classroom setting for almost six months after schools were shut in March as part of the coronavirus lockdown.

The party called for the Government to produce what it labelled a “close the gap” strategy after newly-published studies suggested the Covid-related closures significantly widened the attainment gap between pupils.

Those from disadvantaged backgrounds were left worst off as a result of the time spent away from school, studies claimed.

Schools return in England during Coronavirus pandemic

Shadow education secretary Kate Green said the catch-up strategy should be monitored by an independent body, such as the Children’s Commissioner.

She also said there should be a new legal requirement introduced ensuring data on the attainment gap was regularly published.

Ms Green said: “The Government’s incompetence this summer (with A-level results) put a generation’s future at risk.

“Unless ministers finally get a grip, with a national strategy for catch-up, many more children risk being robbed of their future.

Next year’s GCSE and A-Level exams delay decision will be made soon says schools minister

“Parents need a cast-iron guarantee that any child who has fallen behind will get the support they need to catch up.

“We need independent oversight and transparency, to compare the gap between pupils in different parts of the country and against the pre-Covid generation.

“The last six months have been incredibly difficult for children and families across the country.

“No child should be left behind because of this crisis or Government incompetence.”

National Foundation for Educational Research showed a widening attainment gap, with pupils in deprived schools three times more likely to be four months behind in their studies than more affluent peers.

Previous studies have found school closures may have widened the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their classmates by up to 75 per cent, and that the largest gaps appear to be emerging between primary-aged pupils.

The Opposition party said the Prime Minister’s promised “massive catch-up operation” did not materialise over the summer holiday and that the Government’s £350 million national tutoring programme will not be fully operational until next spring.

Pupils will not be able to benefit from tutors until November – a full eight months after schools initially closed, Labour said.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “We are determined to make sure no child is held back because of coronavirus.

“That’s why getting all children back into full-time education this term is a national priority, because it is the best place for their education, development and wellbeing.

“Announced back in June, our £1 billion Covid catch up package will tackle the impact of lost teaching time as a result of the pandemic, including a £650 million catch up premium to help schools support all pupils and the £350 million National Tutoring Programme for disadvantaged students.

“Headteachers and school leaders are best placed to make decisions about their pupils and which of them need the most support, which is why they will have the flexibility to decide how to spend the premium in their best interests.

“Advice on the most effective interventions has been provided by the Education Endowment Foundation.”