An overwhelming majority of school leaders do not believe extending the school day should be prioritised to help children catch up with missed learning due to the pandemic, a survey suggests.
More than two out of three (70%) school leaders believe one-to-one and small group tutoring run by schools themselves should be the focus of education recovery – but not through the Government’s flagship National Tutoring Programme, according to the snap poll by the NAHT school leaders’ union.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, is calling on the Government to give schools flexible funding and resources “to get on with the job in the way they know works best”.
The findings came after schools catch-up tsar, Sir Kevan Collins, quit this month with a stinging condemnation of the Government’s new £1.4 billion education recovery fund, which he said “falls far short of what is needed”.
Sir Kevan had recommended that schools should be funded for a flexible extension to school time, the equivalent to 30 minutes extra every day.
They don’t need to be told how to do the job, they just need the Government to give them the resources and stand backPaul Whiteman, NAHT
Proposals to extend the school day were not included in the announcement, but Home Office minister, Victoria Atkins, said the Government has not ruled out lengthening pupils’ time spent in school as part of their efforts.
But a survey, of more than 700 school leaders in England, suggests that school leaders largely do not believe the Government should be focusing additional funding for educational recovery on school-day extensions.
When asked to choose their top three priorities for where any extra money should be targeted, 3% said the Government’s National Tutoring Programme (NTP) and 2% said extending the school day for additional learning.
The most popular choices were one-to-one and small group tutoring organised by schools (70%), better support for pupil mental health and wellbeing (63%), and increased allocations for pupil premium funding – which helps schools provide support to poorer children (42%).
Mr Whiteman said: “The National Tutoring Programme is a great idea in principle and could have a really positive impact, but the current bureaucracy surrounding it, and the difficulties schools are facing accessing tutors, means that it is starting to feel like yet another hoop to jump through and a pressure rather than a help.
“It also doesn’t help that schools still don’t even know what their allocations will be for next year, making planning incredibly difficult.
“As our members show with their priorities in this survey, 1:1 and small group tutoring is a measure that education professionals know works. They just need the flexibility – and funding and resources – to organise it themselves.
“Schools are already doing the work of recovery and have been since children returned to classrooms.
“They know what they need to do – what they need from the Government is support. They don’t need to be told how to do the job, they just need the Government to give them the resources and stand back.”
The Department for Education’s (DfE) recovery 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.
Some £218 million of the additional £1 billion for tutoring will be directed through the Government’s flagship NTP.
But schools will also be able to develop local tutoring provision using new or existing school staff through a £579 million fund.
A DfE spokeswoman said: “As part of our ambitious and long-term education recovery plan, we’re investing over £1.5bn for tutoring in schools and colleges, with over £500m going directly to schools to allow them to identify and use their own tutors, and £1bn invested through the NTP and colleges, which is providing high-quality tutoring for thousands of young people.
“We are also giving over £900m to schools, through the catch up and recovery premiums, which can be used flexibly to support pupils in the way that works best for them.”