SHINE urges government to back University tutor training scheme to help children catch up on learning

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Providing the extra capacity to support pupils to start learning again is a huge challenge for our country. To give this support, we estimate there will need to be a temporary increase of 100,000 to the workforce in schools. We need bold ideas, and a country wide response, of the kind we saw to support our NHS.

Fiona Spellman and Henri Murison

SHINE has urged the government to back a University initiative that will see students and recent graduates trained to provide catch-up support in schools.

The Prime Minister has announced a £1bn fund to help schoolchildren to catch up on what they have missed during lockdown. As part of the scheme, the most disadvantaged pupils will be given access to tutors through a £350m programme over the coming academic year.

While welcoming the news, SHINE says much work needs to be done to ensure catch up is effective.

SHINE’s CEO Fiona Spellman and Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, have written to Universities Minister Michelle Donelan, to stress how important it is that “the burden of catch up doesn’t fall on teachers alone”.

They say catch up needs “bold ideas” and a “community effort if it is to make a real difference to children.

Their letter states: “Providing the extra capacity to support pupils to start learning again is a huge challenge for our country. To give this support, we estimate there will need to be a temporary increase of 100,000 to the workforce in schools. We need bold ideas, and a country wide response, of the kind we saw to support our NHS was over the last few months.

“Existing capacity from tutoring charities and providers, potential volunteers from retired teachers is important, but it won’t provide anything like what is needed to deliver Catch-up premium.

“We need motivated and trained tutors and mentors to do this, alongside teacher support and the assessment of mental health and wider needs by schools.

“It’s important that the burden of catch up doesn’t fall to teachers alone, as unsustainable pressure on schools could worsen the challenges with teacher mental health and retention, so it’s vital that this is a community effort.

“We have been working closely with Sheffield Hallam University and other Northern Universities to take forward the idea of training recent graduates and students as tutors and mentors to provide the catch-up support needed. Sheffield Hallam’s pilot scheme has started, and we urge you to look at it is a matter of urgency.

“Crucially, the project is scalable, and similar schemes from other Universities, potentially across the UK, could play a huge role in this national emergency. At a cost of around £420 to train a graduate or student to work providing tuition and mentor support, the training can be shared with other Universities for them to run their own local scheme and recruit their own tutors.

“At a cost of around £420 to train a graduate or student to work providing tuition and mentor support, the training can be shared with other Universities for them to run their own local scheme and recruit their own tutors.

It’s important that the burden of catch up doesn’t fall to teachers alone, as unsustainable pressure on schools could worsen the challenges with teacher mental health and retention, so it’s vital that this is a community effort.

Fiona Spellman and Henri Murison

“In addition, there is interest from Business in the Community (BITC), their members and local businesses, for staff to be trained and volunteer on the scheme. This, again, could be replicated elsewhere in the country.

“The scheme would establish a group of trained tutors who can be deployed in all secondary, special, pupil referral and alternative provision settings nationally (if those institutions want to take advantage) under the direction of the institutions’ leadership teams from September 2020.

“These would provide a broader range of support, in addition to tutoring. Criteria will be established for targeting of pupils who will benefit from this programme and this will be wide ranging for pupils in various categories, with a focus on disadvantaged pupils who are already falling behind.

“Northern Universities are stepping up and if given a role in this crisis should be able to step up further. As well as Sheffield Hallam, Lancaster University have worked with schools to provide extra laptops and internet access and are also working alongside organisations like the charity behind the Eden Project in Morecambe.

“We need to harness the commitment of civic universities to their communities and to local schools, and this could play a crucial role in supporting schools with catch up.”