Pupils to spend more hours in classes to catch up on missed lessons

Pupils face longer days at school: Ministers are working on a plan for children to spend more hours in the classroom after lockdown to catch up on the lessons they missed

  • ‘Bolt-on’ sessions at either end of school day will help those who’ve fallen behind
  • Two million pupils have done less than an hour a day of schoolwork in lockdown
  • PM pledged ‘massive catch-up operation’ to limit pandemic impact on education
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Millions of children will be asked to work a longer school day next term under plans to help them catch up on their education.

Ministers are finalising plans to help those who have missed out since the closure of schools in March.

The plan, which is set to be published tomorrow, is expected to include funding for ‘bolt-on’ sessions at either end of the school day to help those who have fallen behind.

A Whitehall source said: ‘The best place for children to learn is in a school environment, so it makes sense to try and do catch-up work at school rather than trying to do it through home learning.

‘There has rightly been a lot of focus on the impact on disadvantaged children but all children have missed out on their education so we need a catch-up programme that is open to everyone.’

Million of pupils, pictured socially distancing at a school in Corringham, Essex, this week, will be asked to work a longer school day next term

Ministers have ruled out formally extending the length of the school day in legislation. But schools will be asked to run catch-up sessions on their premises.

Boris Johnson this week promised a ‘massive catch-up operation’ to try to minimise the impact of the lockdown on children’s education.

This will include some ‘summer camp’ activities at schools in August, but teachers will not be asked to provide formal lessons during the holidays.

However, ministers have decided that there is no prospect of children making up for lost schooling over the summer, so the catch-up programme will be extended into next term, and possibly beyond.

A study by UCL’s Institute of Education this week found that 2 million children have done less than an hour a day of schoolwork during lockdown.

Only 17 per cent have done more than fours a day. Some teaching unions have resisted efforts to get teachers to live-stream lessons, with the result that many schools have been unable to offer online classes. 

Unions have also advised that teachers should not be expected to mark work done at home.

The move came as the Prime Minister clashed with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer over the continuing difficulty in getting children back to school.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Johnson suggested that Labour and the teaching unions were hampering efforts to get schools restarted.

Ministers have ruled out formally extending the length of the school day in legislation but schools, such as Ortu Gable Hall School in Corringham, Essex, pictured this week, will be asked to run catch-up sessions on their premises

He said one of the best ways to help the poorest children in the country ‘would be to encourage all kids who can go back to school to go back to school now, because their schools are safe’.

The Prime Minister repeatedly challenged Sir Keir to say it was safe for children to return and accused the Opposition of ‘wibble-wobble’ over the issue.

Mr Johnson urged parents to send their children back to school where their classes have restarted, saying it was ‘safe’.

A string of Labour councils have refused to reopen schools, saying they have continuing health concerns. Ministers accuse the big teaching unions of also hampering progress.

Sir Keir, who has been critical of the Government’s failure to move faster on schools, repeatedly refused to acknowledge that schools are now safe.

Mr Johnson told him: ‘I want kids to go back to school. The unions will not let him say the truth. A great ox has stood upon his tongue. Let him now say that schools are safe to go back to.’

Sir Keir said it was not his job to answer questions at PMQs.

A government source accused Sir Keir of a ‘lack of leadership’ over the issue. 

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