England's schools to get extra funds to help pupils catch up after coronavirus lockdown

Pupils work on a task at a primary school in Oldham, northern England, on June 18, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - Schools in England will receive extra funding to help them deal with the impact of lost teaching time during the coronavirus lockdown, the government said on Friday (June 19).

The catch-up package will be worth 1 billion pounds (S$1.73 billion) over the 2020-2021 academic year, a statement said.

Of that, 650 million pounds will be shared across state primary and secondary schools to help them put in place small group tuition and other measures to assist pupils.

Another 350 million pounds will go to a national tutoring programmes aimed at increasing access to high-quality tuition for disadvantaged young people.

Schools were shut in March to most children, as part of a nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of Covid-19.

Some year groups started returning to classrooms this month, but the government has faced criticism for dropping plans to get all primary pupils back into school before the end of the academic year.

"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," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement.

Earlier in the week, the prime minister sought to deflect the blame to the opposition Labour Party and teaching unions, repeatedly asking Labour party leader Keir Starmer to say whether he thought it was safe for children to return to classes.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said last week that over 70 per cent of primary schools had begun taking pupils back from select year groups.

But there's still no fixed date for the return of all year groups, and with the virus still infecting more than 1,000 people a day, many parents are reluctant to send their children back to schools.

Unions and local education authorities have complained of a lack of consultation over the wider reopening of schools, which have provided face-to-face teaching for the children of key workers and remote learning materials for those staying at home during lockdown.

They said the government's plans for re-opening were unworkable and it would be impossible to return to full school rolls while keeping children two metres apart, in line with government guidelines.

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