Summer catch-up classes canned as teachers complain they ‘need a break’

Fewer than one in five schools will run summer catch-up programmes, as they say teachers “need a break” during the holidays.

Just 18 per cent of headteachers said they intended to run summer schools, according to a survey of over 1,000 school leaders.

When asked why they had decided not to run activities for children over the long vacation, the most popular reason was that “staff need a proper break over the summer”, with 88 per cent of respondents choosing this option.

The second most popular reason for not running summer activities was that pupils needed a proper break, followed by a belief that families would not sign their children up even if there were activities.

Earlier this year, the Department for Education (DfE) announced it was setting up a fund of £200 million which secondary schools could apply for to run activities for children over the summer holidays.

Officials said the summer schools – which could last a maximum of two weeks – should be targeted at children who had suffered the most disruption during the past year.

Schools were invited to bid for the funding, which could be used to cover additional staffing costs, free meals for children, transport and activities.

As well as academic support, DfE said that the summer schools should include “enrichment activities” such as team games, music, drama or sports.

So far the Government has pledged just over £3 million to help children catch up following over a year of disrupted schooling owing to the pandemic.

Earlier this year, the Prime Minister’s catch-up tsar resigned, accusing ministers of a “half-hearted” approach to helping children. He warned that the current funding allocated “does not come close to meeting the scale of the challenge” posed by months of school disruption.

Campaign for Children: Falling behind

A new poll, commissioned by The Key which provides support for school leaders, has found that the majority of heads do not intend to run summer activities.

Over a third (36 per cent) of heads said they do not have any plans to run catch-up activities over the summer as they do not think it is necessary.

Another 18 per cent said that while they think summer activities would be helpful, they do not plan to run any. Meanwhile, five per cent of schools said they would ask pupils to complete extra work at home over the summer.

Headteachers said it is a “big undertaking” to put on a summer school from scratch and that it is unlikely that schools which have never run activities over the holidays would organise them for the first time.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The decision will depend on factors such as the availability of staff and the appetite of children and families.

“Summer schools will be helpful where they prove possible, but the main thrust of education recovery will take place during term time when all children are in class.

“What children and young people most need from the government is a substantial investment in education recovery beyond the meagre package announced so far.”

Mr Barton blamed ministers for “hyping up” summer schools as a way of helping children to catch-up “when it was obvious that this could never be a universal offer for the simple reason that participation is voluntary”.

A separate analysis by Labour found that two million children will leave school over the next four years without catch-up support in the form of extra tuition and mentoring. Kate Green, the shadow education secretary, accused the Government of treating children as an "afterthought" during the pandemic.

Campaign for Children: Education: The days lost

A DfE spokesperson said that summer schools were more popular with secondaries than primaries.

“We know in thousands of cases this support is going to continue into the summer, with almost three out of four mainstream secondary schools already signing up to deliver a summer school programme so far, helping young people recover from the disruption to their education," they said.

“In primary schools, school leaders can target catch-up funding to best support their pupils, including through small group tutoring or access to technology, with no expectation of summer provision unless schools decide that is the best way to support young people.” 

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