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Lost Learning: Covid-19

Volume 693: debated on Monday 26 April 2021

What support his Department is providing to help children catch up on learning lost during the covid-19 outbreak. (914720)

What support his Department is providing to help children catch up on learning lost during the covid-19 outbreak. (914749)

Helping pupils to make up learning is vital. That is why this Government have invested £1.7 billion to provide support to help pupils get back on track as they return to school.

From its birth in Bolton to its national roll-out, Tutor The Nation has connected schools in more challenging areas to carefully vetted volunteers, supported by professional tutors working for free. Unfortunately, Tutor The Nation is unqualified to participate in the national tutoring programme. What support can the Secretary of State’s kind Department provide to Tutor The Nation, to give children across the UK the same opportunities that we are enjoying in Bolton?

The national tutoring programme is making great progress in supporting so many children right around the country. I am certainly happy to look into Tutor The Nation in greater detail, to see whether there is more we can do to work closely with it, to ensure that we are able to continue with the great expansion of the national tutoring programme across all constituencies.

As we support vulnerable and disadvantaged children in returning to the classroom, ensuring that they have routines and structures in place to help them reach their potential will be essential. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we cannot overestimate the importance of promoting behaviour and discipline in schools in our ambition to give every child a quality education?

We all know how important it is that we create calm, positive and good environments for children to flourish in, and strong behaviour and discipline policies have been the hallmark of being able to do that. It is particularly important for children from some of the most disadvantaged backgrounds to ensure that we create the type of environment in schools that we want and expect to see right across the country.

The national tutoring programme is reaching only one in six pupils on free school meals, and changes to the school census date mean that schools are also losing out on thousands of pounds of pupil premium funding for those students. Will the Secretary of State now come clean and publish his Department’s full financial analysis of the funding lost to schools from this pupil premium stealth cut?

The hon. Lady forever moans and complains about the resources—the extra resources—that we have been putting into schools. Just a short time ago, we unveiled a £14.4 billion expansion of funding into secondary schools.[Official Report, 16 June 2021, Vol. 697, c. 2MC.] On top of that, we have outlined a further £1.7 billion that is going to support schools in helping to ensure that children are able to catch up having been away. We continue to make those investments and to make that difference.

So are headteachers moaning when they say that the pupil premium stealth cut means that they will not be able to pay for speech and language therapy, or a teaching assistant, or additional small group sessions? One head told me that they lose out more on pupil premium cuts than they receive in catch-up funding. This is not a Government that are serious about catch-up. Will the Secretary of State guarantee that no school will be worse off as a result of his changes to the pupil premium?

This Government are delivering real increases for schools right across the board. We are delivering an extra £1.7 billion in support to schools to ensure that they are able to help children to catch up. That is what we are doing. That is the difference we are making through schemes such as the national tutoring programme. This is making a real impact on children’s lives. We are proud of that and we will continue to drive it forward.

While I strongly support the Government’s summer holiday activities programme, there is a risk that disadvantaged pupils may be less likely to attend. Extending the school day with proper buy-in from parents and pupils makes it easier to engage disadvantaged pupils who are already through the school’s gate. All the evidence suggests that extending the school day has beneficial effects, including increasing educational attainment by an additional two months, and Sheffield Hallam University has said that it generates £4.5 million from improved educational attainment. Will my right hon. Friend support extending the school day, and can he confirm whether the Government have conducted any modelling to calculate the potential cost of an extended school day in England?

My right hon. Friend is right to highlight the fact that we want to ensure that children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds will be among the key beneficiaries of any changes and further interventions we make to ensure that children are able to catch up. One of those areas, which it is right to look at, is an extended school day and how we ensure that children from all backgrounds can benefit from being in school longer. That is why we have asked Sir Kevan Collins to look at this with us. We are doing extensive modelling on this whole area, looking at a whole range of different options, not just on the time in a school day, but targeting schemes such as the National Tutoring Programme as well as supporting teachers in their professional development and continuing to raise the quality of teaching in all our classrooms.