Summer school: catch-up plan for England secondary school pupils explained - and summer holidays start date 2021

Boris Johnson announced extra funding for summer classes to help pupils after Covid

By Jenna Macfarlane
Wednesday, 24th February 2021, 3:09 pm

Secondary schools in England will be asked to consider running summer schools to help children catch up following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Boris Johnson has announced an extra £420m to help pupils catch up on their learning due to schools being closed for long periods.

The Prime Minister said the funding, unveiled on Wednesday 24 February, would help to ensure “no child is left behind”.

Schools will be given the option to put on face-to-face summer classes for pupils (Shutterstock)

It follows Mr Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown announcement for England, which included a date for all pupils to return to classrooms on 8 March.

So, what is the catch-up plan for school pupils?

Here is everything you need to know.

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What is the plan for summer schools?

Schools will be given the option to put on face-to-face summer classes for pupils who need the added learning the most.

Catch-up classes could potentially start with those who will be moving up to Year 7 in secondary school this year.

But it will be up to individual schools to decide how and if they run summer schools - including how long they would be and which pupils would be asked to go.

The “extensive programme”, backed by a total of £700m in funding, will also include an expansion of one-to-one and small group tutoring programmes and support for the development of children in early years.

Boris Johnson said the money would give teachers the “tools and resources they need to support their pupils”.

The Prime Minister added: "Teachers and parents have done a heroic job with homeschooling, but we know the classroom is the best place for our children to be.

“When schools reopen and face to face education resumes… our next priority will be ensuring no child is left behind as a result of the learning they have lost over the past year."

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said "we're giving schools the option to be able to draw down on this funding".

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Mr Williamson said it was up to head teachers to decide how to use the money.

Could the school day be extended?

Longer school days and shorter summer holidays were also considered by the government in an effort to help children catch up.

However, these options were not included in the announcement.

Asked whether extending the school day could be among future plans, Mr Williamson told Sky News: "We'll be looking at how we can boost and support children in a whole range of different manners.

"But it's not just about time in school it's about supporting teachers in terms of the quality of teaching and how we can help them."

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders' union NAHT, said summer schools would be "of value for some pupils" but it would be "important not to overwhelm students".

"Recovery cannot happen in a single summer," he said.

"We need to trust schools to put in place a long-term approach based on what they know about the needs of their pupils."

What does the government’s support package include?

The government's £720m education support package for England includes:

- A one-off £302m "recovery premium" for state primary and secondary schools to go towards summer schooling, clubs and activities

- £200m for face-to-face secondary summer schools, with teachers in charge of deciding which pupils benefit

- An expanded national tutoring programme for primary and secondary pupils and an extended tuition fund for 16 to 19-year-olds, worth £200m

- £18m funding to support early-years language development.

Mr Williamson said the average primary school would receive around £6,000 in extra money, with the average secondary school being given around £22,000 extra in recovery premium payments.

Last year, Mr Johnson announced a £1bn catch-up fund for England, as well as appointing Sir Kevan Collins as education recovery commissioner.

When are the school summer holidays 2021?

Most English schools are due to finish for the summer on 23 July 2021.

The holiday usually lasts for about six weeks.

However, parents should double check dates with their local council which should have all the term dates published online.

This government postcode checker will help you to find your local authority’s website.

You can also check when the holiday is with your local school as term dates can vary between institutions.

When do schools go back in England?

Step one of Boris Johnson’s roadmap included the date for the reopening of schools.

From 8 March, all schools in England will go back, with outdoor after school sports and activities permitted too.

The Prime Minister said individual schools would be able to decide whether to opt for a phased return for different year groups during that week.

To assist with the reopening, there will be mass coronavirus testing in secondary schools.

Parents will also be expected to carry out testing for secondary pupils twice weekly at home.

Furthermore, face masks will be required in some secondary school classrooms.

When schools go back, attendance will be compulsory, with penalty fines able to be imposed.

The government has repeatedly said that opening schools remains the “top priority” when it comes to easing restrictions.

How long have schools been closed?

Pupils in England have faced almost a year of disruption caused by the pandemic.

Schools have been closed to most children, except those of key workers and vulnerable pupils, for large portions of the last 12 months.

Instead of going into classrooms, they have been learning remotely from home.

The government has estimated that national restrictions have led to many children losing around half a school year in face-to-face learning.

The disruption has led to widespread fears about the long-term impact of the pandemic on children.

Primary and secondary schools across England were forced to close after Boris Johnson’s third lockdown announcement on the evening on Monday 4 January - despite some pupils returning to school after Christmas that day.

During his national announcement, the Prime Minister said schools had to shut to prevent the spread of the disease and the new coronavirus strain which had emerged in the UK.

Mr Johnson stressed that schools were not closing because they were unsafe for children, but because they act as “vectors for transmission” between households.