The UK government is delivering recovery support to schools and trusts to help them deal with the challenges of Covid-19. The support, announced on 9 November, will see ‘system leaders’ – successful headteachers or senior staff members – providing tailored assistance to schools and trusts facing particular difficulties because of the coronavirus.
The time-limited support – following on from the 2019/2020 school improvement programme, which is now closed – is being offered free of charge to schools and trusts that are identified as vulnerable. They are eligible if Covid-19 has caused or worsened educational or safeguarding issues or if they need extra leadership capacity because the virus has led to operational problems, such as difficulties in providing remote learning opportunities.
The initiative is organised through regional Department for Education (DfE) teams, working with local authorities, teaching schools councils and local multi-academy trusts, as well as dioceses. They are identifying schools and trusts and matching them to a leader.
The school or trust receives a dedicated amount of time from the leader, while those in particularly difficult circumstances may receive extra assistance. Support could include help with remote learning, assistance on using catch-up funding to address gaps in knowledge and making up leadership capacity that has been lost because of Covid-19.
So far, almost 500 schools have been matched to a system leader to help them overcome problems they face as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
A DfE spokesperson said: “Experienced education leaders play a vital role in supporting the most vulnerable schools to overcome any challenges they may face.
We are continuing to match some of our strongest leaders with schools in need of extra help to recover from any setbacks resulting from the pandemic.”
The support is additional to the catch-up premium for state-funded mainstream and special schools, in which three tranches of grant funding is being made available over 2020/2021, and the national tutoring programme, which is offering targeted support for children and young people with the greatest needs. Both initiatives are part of a £1 billion package of support to all schools.
According to a report published by the National Foundation for Educational Research and the Nuffield Foundation (September 2020) Schools’ responses to Covid-10 — The challenges facing schools and pupils in September 2020, schools are facing considerable challenges. They are likely to need help to manage children who were not attending school, to offer remote learning when there are local lockdowns and to meet safeguarding guidelines.
Meanwhile, The Impact of Covid-19 on Education published in June 2020 by The Edge Foundation, found the pandemic has made it hard to identify and support the most vulnerable children and young people during the crisis. Only a very small proportion – 5% – of this group have been attending school (DfE figure). It also estimates that one million children had no access to the internet, and about 8% of 16- to 24-year-olds could only use digital technology through their phones.
To apply for the support, contact your regional school commissioner’s office.