A COVID rescue plan to help children in England catch up on lost lessons, costing £1.4bn, is being unveiled by the government.
But plans to add half an hour to the school day, extending it from 8am to 5pm or 6pm, are reported to have been postponed after a Whitehall row over the cost.
As part of the recovery package, 17 and 18-year-old students will be given the option to repeat their final year if they have been badly affected by COVID.
The government claims children across England will be offered up to 100 million hours of free tuition to help them catch up on learning lost during the pandemic.
The plan has been drawn up by Sir Kevan Collins, appointed as the government’s COVID catch-up tsar in April, who says at its heart are “three Ts”: extra time, teaching and tutoring.
But lengthening the school day or shortening the summer holiday is now under review as Sir Kevan battles against the Treasury for an estimated £15bn to fund his full plans, with Chancellor Rishi Sunak said to be “pushing back against them” because of the massive cost.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told Sky News there was “a debate to be had as to whether children should be exiting the school gate – as they do in some schools – at 2.45pm, or whether they should be in school later”.
But he added it was “right that we work with schools and teachers as well as parents and children as to what delivers them the best benefit”.
Asked why the government had not yet brought forward proposals to lengthen the school day within its education recovery plan, Mr Williamson said: “What we’ve recognised is we want to bring forward the interventions that we can deliver most rapidly for most children.
“And ensure that actually we’re able to have this hitting the road as quickly as possible.”
The £1.4bn package announced by Mr Williamson includes £1bn to support up to six million 15-hour tutoring courses for disadvantaged children, as well as expanding 16-19 tuition, targeting key subjects such as maths and English.
And £400m will help give early years practitioners and 500,000 school teachers across the country training and support, and schools and colleges will be funded to give some Year 13 students the option to repeat their final year.
Pressed on whether he would have liked more money for the education recovery plan – with Sir Kevan said to have called for £15bn worth of help for schools and pupils – Mr Williamson said the package unveiled on Wednesday was “part of a process”.
“Just a few months ago, just three months ago, we were announcing an extra £700m worth of catch-up to support children, not just over the summer period but going into the next year,” he told Sky News.
“Just a few months before that we were announcing a further £1bn. This is very much part of a…