Getting the most from this year’s catch-up funding

Headteacher Josephine Smith considers how to plan for different groups of pupils, plan the next steps in your catch up strategy and ensure you get best value from government funding

Author details

Josephine Smith is head of a secondary school within a MAT in Lincolnshire. She was previously a vice principal and head of English and director of Key Stage 4 in schools in Leicestershire and Rutland.
Josephine holds NPQH, is a Research...

In late June 2020, the government announced its provision of £650 million to help children in primary, secondary and sixth form settings catch up on the learning they missed when schools were partially closed in March 2020.

£300 million of that funding came directly to schools, while the remaining £350 million was channelled via the National Tutoring programme (NTP). This academic year, an additional amount will arrive in schools specifically for supporting disadvantaged pupils with subsidised tuition and academic mentoring.

In an email sent to headteachers on 1 July 2021, the Department for Education set out the details of this third route into tutoring for disadvantaged pupils. It acknowledged that schools need to have flexibility to hire new or existing staff to deliver the catch-up sessions. The scheme will run alongside the NTP, which is also being scaled up as part of the education recovery effort.

The email states that all state-funded primary, middle and secondary schools in England, including academies and free schools, will receive £203 for 60 per cent of their pupils eligible for pupil premium, from Year 1 to Year 11. The remaining 40 per cent of pupils are expected to be supported through their schools’ use of the NTP.

Schools will be given the discretion to use the funding for pupils they feel would benefit the most, which means that funds received through the school-led tutoring grant are therefore not restricted to Pupil Premium pupils only.

Final allocations will be confirmed to schools at the beginning of the autumn term.

As a school, you need to decide how to get best value for your pupils. To a large degree, this will depend on your identification not just of pupils’ engagement (or lack of it) during lockdown but of all your pupils’ understanding of key skills and concepts across subjects.

Pupils are likely to fall into one of four main categories.

Those who did not or could not engage with learning during lockdown and naturally find it hard to pick up concepts and skills quickly in class, regularly needing plenty of consolidation of learning. Those who did not or could not engage with learning during lockdown but are able enough to pick up concepts and skills quickly in class when they are revisited.
Those who have engaged with learning during lockdown but naturally find it hard to pick up concepts and skills quickly in class, needing plenty of consolidation of learning as a matter of course. Those who have engaged with learning during lockdown and are able to demonstrate a grasp of concepts and skills, applying them to other learning or assessment contexts.

Group A

Pupils in group A will still present the most pressing demand for catch up support. They are likely to be easily identifiable pupils who would have featured in previously established intervention programmes. Their academic needs have been exacerbated by the pandemic and so a range of catch-up, mentoring and incentivising strategies may be necessary throughout the year.

Proposed strategy: adapted curriculum, tutoring and academic mentoring

Start with a review of the curriculum for these identified pupils. If they are in an exam year it might be reasonable to look at dropping a subject (the one they are least likely to make up the learning in and one that will not affect their aspirations or destinations).

Curriculum time freed up can be used for weekly sessions overseen by the learning support team or an identified member of teaching staff. This time could be used to:

  • deliver a structured schedule of small group, subject-specific sessions focusing on core subject knowledge…
  • blended with opportunities to apply their learning using online assessment, independent tasks and tutor set assignments, and…
  • class attendance in all other subjects.

These specific group sessions are about building confidence. Pupils should experience some early success; ideally the sessions will be complemented by fortnightly mentoring reviews that help to decide on the independent learning programme for each successive two weeks.

Group B

Pupils in group B will need specific gaps in specific subjects filled. Prompt identification and early specific intervention is the best strategy for them. They will need introducing to any new or more complex concepts and skills covered during lockdowns or self-isolation periods.

The aim here won’t be to try to teach everything pupils missed, but to ensure they are taught key skills

Any programme for them should target teaching at specific gaps and be relatively intense, over a short period of time rather than long lasting. Specific units or a series of targeted instructional sessions led by a specialist would be best to get them back up to speed and travelling along the same curriculum sequence as their peers in group D.

Proposed strategy: back on track

A series of subject specific sessions delivered to small, medium or class sized groups by subject specialists followed by the chance for students to practice applying the knowledge they have been taught.

This 'back on track' strategy could be completed in two weeks in subject lesson time, or in another subject's time (though be careful not to solve one catch up problem at the expense of creating another!). Alternative delivery times could include lunchtimes, after school sessions, Inset days or holiday days. Use an employed tutor or teacher willing to be paid overtime.

The aim here won’t be to try to teach everything pupils missed, but to ensure they are taught key skills that will help them quickly re-join the sequenced curriculum in the classroom, with the knowledge to keep building on prior learning.

An example in English language

In lockdown, Year 10 students studied the skills needed for English language paper 2 via a 6-week scheme of work. The department debates the key knowledge needed to read and write non-fiction texts. They decide on delivery of 4 x 1 hour long sessions, each offering instruction on:

  1. read for meaning and inference
  2. analysing language and its effects in non-fiction texts
  3. comparing writers’ intended effects
  4. writing non-fiction using effective persuasive techniques and rhetorical devices.

A fifth session could be overseen by a non-subject specialist who supervises the completion of a written assignment which allows the student to apply this knowledge – probably using the same assignment set to others during lockdown and marked and fed back on.

Group C

This group of students will need plenty of reassurance as well as chances to revisit learning regularly. They will benefit most from chances to apply previously learned knowledge in class. They are likely to feel most anxious as they will be the ones to tell you that they ‘just don’t get it’ or that they ‘didn’t understand it the first time’. They will quickly become frustrated with themselves and others (who do ‘get It’) as they will feel they put in the time originally.

Proposed strategy: revisit, review and reward

This group of pupils will benefit most from smartly planned lessons with their usual teacher which regularly offer them the chance to revisit learning in the following ways.

  • Working with the teacher in a small group, whilst others are working independently, to go over concepts again.
  • Low stakes testing e.g. quizzes at the start of lessons with answers explained.
  • Modelling of solutions/strong responses. 
  • Peer explanation and pair work perhaps encouraged by deliberate seating plans.
  • Regular encouragement, recognition and praise when even limited progress is made.
  • Homework tasks accompanied by additional guidance e.g. revision guide materials or links to online demos or instruction.
  • Lunchtime or after school sessions to go through specific learning they can’t quite grasp in class.
  • An older student mentor.

They need reassurance that their efforts will pay off but it might just take a little longer. They are the pupils who need to be encouraged and rewarded and recognised for effort and ‘small wins’.

Group D

This group of students will be impatient if they feel they are back-pedalling in class and asked to complete activities which assume that they haven’t completed or understood lockdown work or work done in class while many of their peers were self-isolating at home.

Be sure to keep stretching them. Refer to revisited concepts as consolidation and show them that even the most secure knowledge needs revisiting in order to help the next learning ‘stick’ more easily.

Don’t give them extra tasks to do but do provide them with alternatives to make them feel they are doing new work

Proposed strategy: consolidate and consult

Find ways of recognising these pupils’ efforts and strengths without celebrating them too publicly in front of their peers. They will not want to be held up as the shining example every lesson but will appreciate postcards or letters home recognising their progress and commitment for example.

Provide extra stimulus for these pupils in class by providing them with opportunities to consolidate their knowledge by sharing it with others. Make them the chairperson in group tasks, ask them to lead starter activities, get them to take the class through a maths problem on the board or to provide a summary of a text.

Don’t give them extra tasks to do but do provide them with alternatives to make them feel they are doing new work, not repeating already learned work. In a nutshell use all that you know about differentiation for the more able to make these pupils feel that they are building their knowledge.

Consult with these pupils. Their perception (or that of their parents) may be that they are weaker in some subjects than others and need some catch-up help.

They may even feel that they should individually benefit from ‘their’ £80 of tutoring! If you decide that you want to be fair in your use of the funding, why not offer some optional after school sessions with an experienced tutor or teacher on the most challenging aspects of the curriculum?

Consider your identification process

Identification of pupils (even if it’s not into the groups suggested above) is likely to be every school’s priority for early autumn. Ensure a strategic identification process based on a combination of evidence and professional judgement.

Plan a schedule of assessment. Whether that’s high or low stakes assessment is for you to debate, but be mindful of pupil mental health, wellbeing and teacher workload – as well as collecting the information in a way that can be easily adapted, shared and monitored.

Last Updated: 
26 Aug 2021