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Early years left out of 'Covid catch up plan'

By Rachel LawlerChildren playing nursery

The government has announced a "billion pound Covid catch up plan" to support children after the coronavirus crisis.

The package includes £650 million for state schools and £350 million for a tutoring scheme aimed at the most disadvantaged children in England. The package does not include any measures to support the early years sector.

The government says that the funding will help "tackle the impact of lost teaching time" and will be distributed to primary and secondary schools over the 2020/21 academic year.

Head teachers will be able to determine how the funds are spent but the government expects to see small group tutition for those that need it.

The National Tutoring Programme aims to give the most disadvantaged children access to "high quality tution" over the next academic year.

The government also announced an ambition to have all providers offering holiday clubs and activities able to open for the summer holidays, provided that "the science allows".

Guidance for providers on how this can be safely delivered will be provided.

Hard working staff

Prime Minister Boris Johnson commented: "I want to once again thank teachers, childcare workers and support staff for the brilliant work they have been doing throughout the pandemic.

“This includes providing remote education for those not in school, as well as face-to-face education for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers.

“This £1billion catch-up package will help head teachers to provide extra support to children who have fallen behind while out of school. I am determined to do everything I can to get all children back in school from September, and we will bring forward plans on how this will happen as soon as possible.”

Disadvantaged children

Education secretary Gavin Williamson added: "This package will make sure that every young person, no matter their age or where they live, gets the education, opportunities and outcomes they deserve, by spending it on measures proven to be effective, particularly for those who are most disadvantaged."

Early years concerns

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, said: "Given that quality early years provision plays a pivotal role in children's long-term learning and development, it beggars belief that the early years sector has been excluded from this 'catch-up' package.

"Childcare settings across the country are working hard to provide the best possible support to those children who have missed several weeks of important early education. Why is it then, that once again, schools get much-needed financial support and early years providers don't?

"The fact that this comes on the back of months of inadequate support for the early years sector makes this decision all the more galling. With one in four childcare providers expecting to go out of business within the year, the government simply cannot keep ignoring the financial pressures facing the sector.

"For the vast majority of children, education starts long before they reach the school gates. It's time the government recognised this fact, and gave early years providers the respect and support that they deserve."

Useful links

Coronavirus (COVID-19): implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings

Operating during the lockdown and beyond

Business advice Q and A