In the last few weeks there has been a lot of comment in the press about how children and young people who have missed out on school and learning over the last year will be supported to catch up. Some of the ideas that have been discussed include summer schools, extending the school day and making terms longer by two weeks.
There are three broad areas of focus for catch up – these are:
· The quality of education
· More teaching time for children
At the start of the new year, the NNPCF asked parent carer forums for their views on how well the catch-up funding announced by the government last year was being deployed in their area. Based on your feedback we have made the following representations to the government on this matter:
1. There has been a huge variability of experience for children and a “one size fits all” approach is not appropriate. The impact of lock down has been very different for each child and family.
For example, some children with SEND have been in school whilst the majority have not. The quality of remote education for children with SEND has been very variable – some schools have provided training for parents, pre-learning for children, used break out rooms in video conferencing tools to provide 1:1 support and have sent specialist materials and equipment home. Other schools have not differentiated their offer for SEND at all and are just sending out links to Oak academy or BBC Bitesize lessons. Moreover, some children have adapted well to remote learning whereas many more have struggled without the clear structure and support offered by school.
2. Any catch-up must be holistic and not just academic. Children have not just lost a year of learning, many have lost a year of their childhood including the physical, mental, emotional and social development that they would have enjoyed. These factors are amplified for children with
SEND and a focus on mental health and therapy services is essential in any catch-up proposal. Absent this, many children will not be ready to learn because of the broader impact of lockdown on their well-being.
3. Any schemes to offer additional teaching time must be structured in a way that will be appealing and accessible to children with SEND. For example, extending the school day may provide challenges for some children with SEND and summer school may not be possible or attractive for many families. We have asked the DfE to look at a wider range of providers for example sports schemes and summer respite schemes to see if additional funding can be used to make these activities (many of which are targeted at children and young people with SEND) a part of a holistic catch-up programme.
4. Coproduction – any catch-up programme should be coproduced with individual families to make sure that what is offered meets their particular needs. In addition, parent carer forums should be involved in designing local area solutions to catch up and helping to determine how money can be spent most effectively. We have seen excellent examples of PCFs coproducing creative solutions to supporting SEND catch up in some local areas.