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The government announces £1billion investment to support schools over the next two years

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A message from NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman to members

The government announces £1billion investment to support schools over the next two years

A week ago, the prime minister announced his intention to launch a ‘summer catch-up plan’ for pupils in England. 

Since then, many of you have been in contact with us to express your serious concerns about this idea. 

The message you gave us was clear: a short-term, ‘quick-fix’ over the summer is not the answer.

Over the last seven days, we have been engaging with the government and taking that message directly to them.

Today’s announcement appears encouraging and seems to suggest they have listened to much of what we have been telling them. 

As you will no doubt have seen, the government has allocated a package worth £1billion that will directly support schools over the next two years.

Importantly, previous headlines suggesting a ‘summer of catch-up classes’ appear to have been replaced with a more sensible, long-term plan.  

You may have heard there is an expectation the money will primarily be focused on small-group tuition. However, we expect there will be significant freedom and flexibility in how schools are able to use this fund. The government’s endorsement of the EEF toolkit, which sets out a range of possible ‘catch-up’ strategies, suggests that schools will be able to draw on the evidence of what works to inform their decision-making. Furthermore, the minister for school standards, Nick Gibb, appeared on Radio 4 earlier this morning and was asked directly if schools could decide how to spend the money. He confirmed they could and stated: “the people who know their children best are the head teachers and teachers and that’s why we have allocated the money direct to the schools so that they can then decide how to deploy extra resources.” 

While we now await further details, on the surface, this announcement does appear to be a positive development, and it clearly represents a considerable investment. NAHT will now seek clarity from the government about exactly how the money will be allocated. We also want to find out more about how their proposed tutoring scheme (also announced today) will work in practice. 

One thing we were extremely disappointed to see was that the fund does not cover early years. In all our conversations with the government it was clear there was originally an intention to include early years and we have been given no explanation for this apparent late change. However, we note from ministerial comments this morning that work is ongoing and they expect to have more to say on this matter soon. We will continue to make the case for early years in the strongest possible terms. Similarly, we are also pressing the case for 16 – 19 funding and challenging why this has not been included in the support package. 

Just to reiterate one important point, our understanding is that despite some earlier headlines, no-one will be forced to run summer catch-up schools. I hope this will reduce some of the understandable anxiety that has built up in the sector since last week.

Our conversations with the government have not always been easy over the last few months, but I am pleased to be able to tell you that I sensed a real desire to engage with us over this particular issue and to listen to many of our concerns.

We are certainly not getting carried away by this news. I know many of you will point out that this is no silver bullet, nor will it make up for the very significant funding cuts you have endured in recent years. Also, as with any major announcement of this kind, there is always a need to examine the detail of the proposals very carefully to make sure there is not a sting in the tail. 

However, my initial reaction is that, compared to where we were a week ago, this is a positive step forward for pupils and the profession.

First published 19 June 2020