Millions of children will be asked to work a longer school day next term under plans to help them catch up on their education.
Ministers are finalising plans to help those who have missed out since the closure of schools in March.
It comes after 1,500 paediatricians signed an open letter warning the government it needed to get pupils back to school or ‘risk scarring the life chances of a generation of young people,’ according to The Daily Telegraph.
The plan, which is set to be published tomorrow, is expected to include funding for ‘bolt-on’ sessions at either end of the school day to help those who have fallen behind.
A Whitehall source said: ‘The best place for children to learn is in a school environment, so it makes sense to try and do catch-up work at school rather than trying to do it through home learning.
‘There has rightly been a lot of focus on the impact on disadvantaged children but all children have missed out on their education so we need a catch-up programme that is open to everyone.’
Million of pupils, pictured socially distancing at a school in Corringham, Essex, this week, will be asked to work a longer school day next term
Ministers have ruled out formally extending the length of the school day in legislation. But schools will be asked to run catch-up sessions on their premises.
Boris Johnson this week promised a ‘massive catch-up operation’ to try to minimise the impact of the lockdown on children’s education.
This will include some ‘summer camp’ activities at schools in August, but teachers will not be asked to provide formal lessons during the holidays.
However, ministers have decided that there is no prospect of children making up for lost schooling over the summer, so the catch-up programme will be extended into next term, and possibly beyond.
An open letter from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health warns: ‘School is about much more than learning. It is a vital point of contact for public health services, safe-guarding and other initiatives.
‘This includes access to mental health support, vaccinations, special therapies, free school meals, physical activity and early years services that help children get the best start in life.’
Prince Charles, founder of the Prince’s Trust, fears the pandemic could be ‘devastating’ for young people under the age of 25.
He told The Daily Telegraph: ‘When I founded my trust 44 years ago, the problems facing young people through unemployment and a lack of support were serious. Now, I fear, those problems have gone from serious to potentially devastating.’
Ministers have ruled out formally extending the length of the school day in legislation but schools, such as Ortu Gable Hall School in Corringham, Essex, pictured this week, will be asked to run catch-up sessions on their premises
Prince Charles fears consequences of coronavirus could be ‘devastating’ for young adults
Prince Charles fears the impact of the coronavirus could be ‘potentially devastating’ for young adults.
His charity, the Prince’s Trust, has set up a relief fund and is supporting young people who are trying to cope with job losses and other changes brought about by the coronavirus.
The Prince told The Daily Telegraph: ‘In times of economic hardship it is often young people who are hardest hit and we know that many under-25s work in sectors such as hospitality and tourism, which have borne the brunt. ‘
He warned of the impact youth unemployment can have on mental health and warned it could lead to poverty and homelessness.
Prince Charles added: ‘When I founded my trust 44 years ago, the problems facing young people through unemployment and a lack of support were serious. Now, I fear, those problems have gone from serious to potentially devastating.’
A study by UCL’s Institute of Education this week found that 2 million children have done less than an hour a day of schoolwork during lockdown.
Only 17 per cent have done more than fours a day. Some teaching unions have resisted efforts to get teachers to live-stream lessons, with the result that many schools have been unable to offer online classes.
Unions have also advised that teachers should not be expected to mark work done at home.
The move came as the Prime Minister clashed with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer over the continuing difficulty in getting children back to school.
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Johnson suggested that Labour and the teaching unions were hampering efforts to get schools restarted.
He said one of the best ways to help the poorest children in the country ‘would be to encourage all kids who can go back to school to go back to school now, because their schools are safe’.
The Prime Minister repeatedly challenged Sir Keir to say it was safe for children to return and accused the Opposition of ‘wibble-wobble’ over the issue.
Mr Johnson urged parents to send their children back to school where their classes have restarted, saying it was ‘safe’.
A string of Labour councils have refused to reopen schools, saying they have continuing health concerns. Ministers accuse the big teaching unions of also hampering progress.
Sir Keir, who has been critical of the Government’s failure to move faster on schools, repeatedly refused to acknowledge that schools are now safe.
Mr Johnson told him: ‘I want kids to go back to school. The unions will not let him say the truth. A great ox has stood upon his tongue. Let him now say that schools are safe to go back to.’
Sir Keir said it was not his job to answer questions at PMQs.
A government source accused Sir Keir of a ‘lack of leadership’ over the issue.