Just like terms such as lockdown, social distancing and zoom, the phrase ‘catch-up’ has also become a part of our rhetoric which has evolved in its meaning in the last 12 months.
Concern around the learning gap which has emerged due to the amount of time away from school has prompted the government to now pledge over £1 billion in total for the Catch Up Premium. The funding can be used in many ways, to a large extent of each school’s own choosing, with advice suggesting they should target one to one and small group tuition, intervention programmes, and extended school time. The most recent round of funding has come with a recommendation of longer school days and summer schools to help with the catch up and ensure that, as Boris put, ‘no child is left behind’.
However, concerns are being raised around the fact that whilst this catch up support may help reduce the attainment gap, they way it is being discussed will only add to the emotional stress that many children feel, on top of the mental health pressures already caused by living in a pandemic since March 2020.
Many feel ‘catch up’ hits home too harshly that children are behind, and that they must close the gap within the next few months to have a shot at a normal education.
The BPS (British Psychological Society) have said- ‘We’re urging the government to reconsider its emphasis on the idea that children and young people need to ‘catch up’ on their education and saying that supporting the wellbeing and educational needs of all children should be a priority.’
Not to mention the added pressure extended school time would place on school staff on top of the additional work created by pupil learning being measured solely by Teacher Assessed Grades this year. Senior Leaders, Classroom Teachers, Classroom Assistants and School Support staff have already been extremely overloaded, adapting to juggling remote learning with ensuring those still needing to attend school continue with the best education possible for almost a year now. To be told they must work longer days and potentially over the summer too will understandably add to the frustration and exhaustion already felt.
On the other side, there has been praise for the fact that the gap caused by time out of school is being directly addressed. One could maintain that ‘catch up’ simply is needed, arguing that the blunter and more specific the approach the quicker the learning gap will shrink. The phrase ‘catch up’ just encapsulates the extra support required and the additional funding being provided.
It seems a number of balanced strategies are already emerging, with suggestions of catch up through play activities for younger children and a softer approach for older pupils too, ensuring pastoral and emotional well-being are considered as well as academic. For teaching staff, perhaps the use of bringing additional resources in in the form of tutors and extra support staff will help to take the pressure off, adding to the workforce rather than overworking the existing one.
So, which side of the fence are you on? Is it simply a phrase to explain exactly what the additional funding needs to do, or does it fuel unnecessary extra pressure on our already emotionally stressed children and overworked Teacher workforce?