Summer catch-up plan for schools pledged

An extended catch-up plan for England’s schools is to be launched for the summer and beyond, to help pupils get back on track amid school shutdowns.

The PM’s spokesman said the plans would involve all pupils, not just those from poor backgrounds who are expected to fare worse during closures.

It comes after the education secretary ditched plans for all primary pupils to return to school before the break.

PM Boris Johnson has been accused of “flailing around” over schools.

On Wednesday, Labour leader Keir Starmer called for a national recovery plan for schools, saying the current plan to get pupils back to classrooms were “lying in tatters”.

Mr Johnson said at Wednesday’s daily briefing that the government would be doing “a huge amount of catch up for pupils over the summer”.

Concerns have been raised about the potential for a lost generation of learners, whose education will have been interrupted for at least six months even if schools return as now planned in September.

Community spaces?

The PM’s spokesman said the aim remained to have all pupils back in school for the start of the academic year, but gave no details about how ministers intended to achieve this.

School capacity is severely restricted by guidelines on social distancing and separating out existing classes into smaller groups of up to 15 pupils from much larger class sizes.

When the spokesman was asked about increasing this capacity, by creating extra classrooms or using village halls for example, he said the government was “looking at exactly what might be required to get all children back”.

The Scottish Government, which is bringing pupils back in staggered fashion from August, has said it will be working with local councils to seek out extra community spaces and empty offices to accommodate pupils, where necessary.

Summer camps

Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman Layla Moran has called for a register to be drawn up in local areas to map out where spaces could be brought into school use.

There are few details of how the summer catch-up plans will work. A further announcement is expected next week.

The Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, warned last week that there were just two weeks left to set such summer learning projects up.

And the House of Commons Education Committee chairman, Robert Halfon, has called for a Nightingale Hospital style plan to get schools back to capacity.

Meanwhile, the Welsh government has published new guidance on the measures schools should consider when reopening, including outside learning, teaching in small groups, and pupils eating at their desks.

Schools in Wales will reopen to all age groups from 29 June, but only a third of pupils will be in classes at any one time.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says Scottish schools will reopen from 11 August, but with some continued home learning.

In Northern Ireland, ministers have set a target date for some pupils to go back on 17 August, with a phased return for the rest in September.

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