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Covid 19: Education recovery, ‘catch up’ and tutoring

Reading and writing your way to better mental wellbeing

  • Sustained support will be needed to help disadvantaged pupils catch up. Suggestions for potential ways to mitigate learning loss have included tutoring, summer schools, an extra 30 minutes added to the school day and funding for a range of extra-curricular activities to support physical and mental health (see e.g. Sylvester and Woolcock, 2021).
  • In early February 2021, Sir Kevan Collins was appointed as Education Recovery Commissioner for England and a new education recovery package was announced, including an expansion of existing programmes of small group and individual tutoring; funding for early years language development; a new ‘recovery premium’ worth £6,000 for the average primary school and £22,000 for the average secondary; and funding for secondary schools to deliver summer schools and online resources for teachers and pupils, to be made available during the summer term and summer holiday (DfE, 2021).
  • The National Tutoring Programme is a “government-funded, sector-led initiative to support schools to address the impact of COVID-19 school closures on pupils’ learning” (EEF, n.d.) Led by collaboration of five charities (EEF, Sutton Trust, Impetus, Nesta and Teach First), it is intended to support disadvantaged pupils who would otherwise not have access to quality tutoring. There is good evidence that tutoring can help pupils ‘catch up’ with lost learning with studies indicating that it can help pupils make between three and five additional months’ progress (EEF, n.d.)
  • In April 2021, headlines warned of a ‘lockdown illiteracy surge’ after then Education Recovery Commissioner Sir Kevan Collins suggested 30,000 more children would be starting secondary school without the reading skills needed to access the secondary curriculum (in addition to the usual 200,000 who leave primary school with below expected levels of reading). The government is expected to publish a review and a four-year plan to address this in late summer 2021.
  • In June 2021 the government announced a further £1.4 billion investment in tutoring for disadvantaged children, expansion of the 16-19 tuition fund (targeting maths and English, training for early years practitioners and teachers and funding to allow some Year 13 students the option of repeating their final year (DfE, 2021). However, on 2 June, Sir Kevan Collins resigned, stating, "I do not believe it is credible that a successful recovery can be achieved with a programme of support of this size."
  • A blog by the EPI later in June 2021 asserted that the extra funding, taking overall catch-up funding to c.£3.1bn, “fell far short of the nearly £15bn reportedly sought by the Education Recovery Commissioner” and the £13.5bn recommended in the EPI’s own report on education recovery and resilience (EPI, 2021). The blog compares per-pupil spending plans for the UK (£230 - £400 per pupil) with the US and the Netherlands, where spending is estimated at £1,800 and £2,100 per pupil respectively.
  • In a July 2021 survey of 1,150 primary and secondary school leaders, just 18% said they would be offering voluntary catch-up provision during the summer break (The Key, 2021). Indicating that wellbeing was an important factor in this decision, almost 9 in 10 (88%) said this was because staff needed a proper break, and 7 in 10 (70%) because pupils needed a holiday.
  • A separate survey of senior leaders in 50 schools in deprived parts of England found that many believed the current approach to learning recovery to be “misconceived and inadequate” (NFER, 2021). Noting deteriorating wellbeing and mental health in some pupils, the report recommends that school catch-up plans should give equal emphasis to academic and emotional support.
  • A review of research published by the Chartered College of Teaching in July 2021 put forward three suggestions for teachers and leaders seeking to support learning recovery following school closures (Müller and Goldenberg, 2021). Citing OECD research on PISA 2018 findings, it recommends “a quiet room for homework and study after school hours, peer-to-peer tutoring and creative extra-curricular activities” as these have all been associated with higher pupil performance. Extending the school day (for example, through remedial or after-school lessons), was not found to have an impact on students’ reading performance.

Read our analysis and recommendations