As everyone was enjoying their half-term break the government announced a further £1.4bn to support COVID recovery in schools this which breaks down to £50 extra per pupil per year. The majority of this additional funding is to be spent on the National Tutoring Programme, which although heavily subsidised, schools still have to pay for.
This was a drop in the ocean compared to the £13.5bn that the Education Policy Institute (EPI) think tank had calculated would be required to catch up on lessons disrupted by the pandemic or the £15bn that was reported to have been called for by the Education Recovery Commissioner – Kevan Collins, prior to his resignation following the government’s announcement.
The prime minister has promised schools in England there will be more money “coming down the track” but for now what should schools be doing to ensure that they are spending what they have got as effectively and efficiently as they can.
By now the majority of teachers will have had chance to observe and assess their pupils to ascertain just how much learning has been lost – if any. Teachers across the country spent last half term trying to fill in the gaps and get their pupils back “on-track”. As we go into the final six weeks of this academic year, we need to ensure that we are preparing our pupils for transition to the next step of their educational journey. Whether it be a new class, new year group, new phase or new school the next six weeks will be crucial to how well the next academic year begins.
This will entail schools using all of their resources to ensure that any gaps that have arisen in a pupil’s learning are addressed as quickly as possible.
School budgets are currently at crisis point and many schools are having to deal with deficits and are having to make some very difficult decisions about staffing and resources for September. However, schools still have a duty to ensure that all pupils receive a high quality of education. For pupils with SEND the school has a duty to ensure that the additional and/or different provision required to support their SEND is partially found from the school budget.
Many pupils with an EHCP will also have received additional (top-up) funding to meet the provision laid out in section F of the plan. Again, if the provision was not been offered during the lockdowns then the funding should still be available. For example, a school that received top-up funding to provide a pupil with weekly speech and language therapy and this did not take place throughout lockdown or was much reduced, should still have that funding available so could, in the short term, offer additional therapy for that pupil.
On top of the school budget there are also a number of additional funding streams that schools can use.
Pupil Premium – this is the funding all schools receive to support their disadvantaged pupils (those eligible for free school meals). About 30% of all disadvantaged children are also on SEN Support or have an EHCP so it is possible that pupil premium could be used to support these pupils especially if the gap has widened between them and their non-SEN peers. It is possible that not all pupil premium has been spent this year given lockdown and school closure for many pupils.
I am fully aware however that many of our vulnerable pupils have been in school and some of this funding may have been spent on providing additional staffing in school to allow other staff to offer remote learning to those at home.
Schools have, for many years, had to publish information about how they have spent their pupil premium grant and the impact that it has had on learners but as part of the conditions of grant 2020/21 schools are also now expected to use the strategy statement templates to publish their pupil premium strategy and from next academic year show how their spending decisions are informed by research evidence.
Schools may wish to consider the Education Endowment Foundation Pupil Premium Guide for further information.
Catch-up Premium – In 2020 the government announced their one-off payment of catch-up premium to help and fund specific activities to support their pupils to catch up for lost teaching over the previous months. Schools were given the flexibility to spend their funding in the best way for their cohort and circumstances. Schools have now received this money and are accountable for how this funding is being used.
In mainstream schools this was approximately £80 per pupil from reception through to Year 11 and in special schools, alternative provision and hospital schools this will be £240 per place. I know this is not a huge sum of money but it has been allocated for a specific purpose.
This was on top of the funding that was given to the National Tutoring Programme that offered highly subsidised tutoring for children and young people – this is where the majority of the new funding has been allocated.
Schools may wish to consider engaging tutors for those pupils who have missed key components of their learning over the last 15 months.
Primary PE and Sports Premium – This premium for all primary schools is to ensure that all pupils have a positive experience of sport and physical activity in order to live healthy and active lives. Many schools were able to carry forward some of their underspend last year because of the difficulty spending all their allocations due to the restrictions placed on physical activity during the pandemic. This funding must be spent by the end of this academic year. To date we have had no confirmation that this funding will continue in the academic year 2021-2022.
Many children have not been able to access sport and physical activity during the periods of lockdown but many will also have difficulties with their mental health as well. Schools might like to consider spending some of this funding engaging mentors or counsellors to support the pupil’s mental health at the same time as engaging sports coaches to support their physical development.
It also has to be remembered that there is an expectation that all schools report, on their websites, how Catch-up premium and PE and Sports premium are planned to be spent, how they have been spent, how you will assess the effectiveness of the spend and the impact of that spending.
- Please use any the additional funding in the most effective way to meet the needs of as many pupils as possible
- Please consider the needs of all pupils – not just about academic lost learning but may be support for communication, language development, vocabulary skills, social and emotional development and physical development
- Please look to invest in things that are sustainable in the long term – if you find something works really well then you need to keep it going.
- Please use research and evidence to make your decisions on the most effective ways to support pupils
- Please think outside the box in terms of engaging with other professionals including those from health – we know that schools are centres of educational excellence but many of our SEND, vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils need support from health and social care as well.