News from Westminster

12 March 2021

£700 million recovery package for children and young people; Education Recovery Commissioner Sir Kevan Collins appointed; Education Select Committee hears evidence on the impact of Covid-19 on children, including a call to stop using deficit language of ‘catch-up’.

£700 million recovery package including £200 million for summer schools

On 24 February the government announced £700 million funding for ‘further elements of the recovery support package so children and young people can catch up on missed learning and development due to the pandemic.’

The £700 million package includes £400 million of new funding and £300 million of funding already announced in January for tutoring, language development and summer schools:

  • £302 million for a Recovery Premium ‘building on the Pupil Premium’ which can be used for summer provision including ‘additional clubs and activities’ and support from September for students who receive Pupil Premium funding. DfE estimates the average primary school will receive around £6,000 extra, and the average secondary school around £22,000 extra.
  • £200 million for secondary schools to deliver face-to-face summer schools. Schools will be able to target provision based on pupils’ needs, but the government is suggesting they may want to initially target incoming year 7 pupils.
  • £200 million on tutoring comprising:
    • £83 million expansion of the National Tutoring Programme for primary and secondary schools
    • £102 million extension of the 16-19 Tuition Fund for a further year to support more students in English, maths and other vocational and academic subjects
    • £18 million funding to support language development in the early years – £10m to be allocated to a pre-reception early language programme, and £8m for the Nuffield Foundation to deliver the Nuffield Early Language Intervention for reception children.

Education Recovery Commissioner Sir Kevan Collins appointed

On 3 February the government announced Sir Kevan Collins as the government’s Education Recovery Commissioner whose role is to ‘oversee a comprehensive programme of catch-up aimed at young people who have lost out on learning due to the pandemic’.

Collins reports directly to the Prime Minister and Education Secretary and has been appointed for nine months, with the possibility to extend the role for a further nine months. Collins was clear in the 2 March Education Select Committee hearing that he believes the work needs to be a long-term and sustained. The role specification states that ambition is that ‘students will catch up with lost learning over the course of this Parliament’.

Education Select Committee hears evidence on the impact of Covid-19 on children – call to stop using ‘catch-up’ language

On 2 March the Education Select Committee held an oral evidence session on The impact of COVID-19 on education and children’s services with witnesses Sir Kevan Collins, Education Recovery Commissioner, Department for Education; Professor Becky Francis, Chief Executive, Education Endowment Foundation; and Geoff Barton, General Secretary, Association of School and College Leaders.

You can read the full transcript or watch the session on Parliament TV. We have pulled out below the key points of interest to cultural learning providers looking to support children over the summer.

We should stop using deficit language

Both Sir Kevan Collins and Geoff Barton were at pains to emphasise the use of ‘catch-up’ and other deficit language when talking about our children is unhelpful and should be avoided.

Sir Kevan Collins:

My view is that the recovery needs to be long-term, sustained and far reaching. “Catch-up” is not really the language that I am using; I think it is much more about recovery over time.’


‘I am full of optimism and confidence in our young people, so I would rather see us move into a more positive language about reconnecting, rebuilding and recovery, rather than endlessly saying to young people, “Somehow you are not as good as you might have been.”’

Geoff Barton also talked about how defining activity as academic and non-academic is unhelpful:

‘I want to reject the language of catch-up—I am not sure “recovery” is fantastic. I also want to reject the idea that there are some things that we might call academic, and some things we might not. Playing in an orchestra after school, whether you want to call it academic or not, is precisely the kind of thing that young people need to get back into and will be craving …’

Quality not quantity and marginal gains

Professor Becky Francis talked about the evidence base. During discussions about extending the summer term or school day she emphasised that the evidence suggests what makes a difference to children is the quality of teaching, not the quantity.

Regarding summer schools Francis pointed out the evidence suggests there are only marginal gains in literacy and maths to be had from running them. She also pointed out:

‘There are benefits, of course, from just summer activity for wellbeing, as we have been hearing. But if you want to see academic progress made, that needs to be very targeted, led by well-qualified teachers and so forth. It is very expensive, and of course we are balancing the issues around teacher burnout and expectations for both pupils and teachers over the summer.’

Teacher workload, burnout and who could provide support

All three witnesses discussed the issue of teacher workload and potential burnout of teachers if they are asked to work longer hours and over the summer. Collins and Barton also touched on how the wider education community could support children and schools.

Professor Francis: ‘Thinking about new initiatives and new approaches, we need to balance that very carefully with the potential for teacher workload and burnout.’

Sir Kevan Collins: ‘I personally would like to see a wide range of providers. I would like to see local authorities, local community groups—a broader range of people coming together to be the providers. It is about supporting schools with this additional resource and this additional service for children, rather than it all just being through the school.’

Extended schools, a five term school year and the opportunity for change

The group discussed the school year and the idea of moving to a five term year or extending the school day. Barton said the five term year ‘has much merit’. Collins made the point that extending the school day wasn’t about running classes for longer but about opening up school facilities to communities ‘This is not necessarily about requiring teachers to work longer, it is about opening up these fantastic facilities.’ Jonathan Gullis MP who sits on the committee said:

‘When we talk about the extended school day, we are not saying: “Teach till 5pm.” We are saying: “What outside youth agencies, youth groups and outreach work can be done in a school building, with all the safeguarding that is already in there and all the facilities already provided?” That means that, instead of spending on youth centres—nice and shiny as they can be—which have lots of ongoing overhead costs, we can actually then invest in people, which is what, ultimately, we want to do.’

Barton also made the point that the last year has held a mirror up to our education system and highlighted the flaws, including that our norm referenced GCSE system requires a third of students to fail, and we must not squander the opportunity to make changes:

‘If covid has done anything, it has held a mirror up to our education system. We have seen the best bits and the worst bits. I hope that what we can do in the longer term is to have a look at our qualifications, have a look at the accountability and have a look at how we incentivise the best people to want to work in the most challenging places and to stay there. Otherwise, we will have squandered an opportunity.’