UNISON gives cautious welcome to COVID-related schools funding

School support staff will have a vital role in bringing pupils ‘back up to speed’

UNISON has cautiously welcomed the government’s £1bn COVID-19 ‘catch-up’ package for schools in England, which aims to make up for lost schooling.

The new funding consists of £650m for state primary and secondary schools for the 2020/21 academic year, plus £350m for a national tutoring programme for the most disadvantaged pupils.

The Education Endowment Fund, an independent research organisation that UNISON has worked with on the effective deployment of teaching assistants, will provide expertise for schools to ensure that the money is used well.

However, UNISON expressed surprise that additional funding has not been made available for early years or pupils over 16, and details of the package are yet to be announced.

Head of education Jon Richards said: “It’s a helpful start and it is good that some of the money is targeted at the most disadvantaged groups, some of whom may have fallen behind in their studies due to the lockdown.

“School support staff will have a vital role in helping bring pupils back up to speed and we would be happy to work with the government on a national plan to bring this about.

“But the government needs to find equivalent funding to ensure that pupils over 16 and those in early years are not missed out, as that could store up huge longer-term problems for society.”

Mr Richards added: “As schools re-open and parents get back to work, we need to ensure that the safety of pupils, parents and staff is a priority, so that there isn’t a second wave of infections.”

Find out more about UNISON in education