Schools in England closed their gates this week for half-term, and we hope many of you have been able to enjoy the brighter weather and spend time together with your family. There has been no let up on the news this week and we’ve been following closely the government’s catch-up plans for education, which include a £153 million package for evidence-based professional development for early years practitioners. However, they don’t go far enough to support the early years and vulnerable children who need it most.


School catch-up plans

The government announced a £1.4bn Covid recovery package for schools, including £1bn for 100 million hours of tutoring and £250m for teacher training and development. Many head teachers, parents and education leaders are ‘hugely disappointed’ and have warned that much more investment will be needed. There had been reports the recovery plan would be much more substantial and include longer school days – but any further funding will now depend on the next spending review. The education recovery commissioner for England, Sir Kevan Collins, has resigned over the shortfall in funding.

Read some of the reactions to the announcement in The Guardian, Evening Standard, and BBC News.


Early years training

£153 million of the education catch-up package has been earmarked for evidence-based professional development for early years practitioners, including through new programmes focusing on key areas such as speech and language development, as reported by Children and Young People Now.

Our Head of Education, Preeti Patel, shares her initial reaction below:

“I welcome the government’s plans to allocate £153 million to provide opportunities for evidence based professional development for early years practitioners focusing on speech and language development. It shows some recognition of the important position our teachers in Early Years have in supporting children to bridge the attainment gap.

The pandemic, however, has impacted on the holistic development of children. There now needs to be a concerted effort to support all aspects of our youngest children’s development and learning at every level. 

 To address the full spectrum of learning loss, we must create opportunities for children to play and gain new experiences outside of academia. They are incredibly resilient and will bounce back if given the time and right environment to do so. The current education system unfortunately does not allow enough of this.

 As well as education recovery, there needs to be an equal focus on the financial recovery of education settings. Early Years providers have remained open throughout the pandemic; having faced many challenging and difficult decisions, it is now vital that they too are given support to continue providing high quality and sustainable provision.”


Increased children’s mental health needs

Children’s mental health needs have increased by a third since the pandemic, according to NHS Providers. Mental health services are under growing pressure and increasingly overstretched, despite significant support and investment. A large majority of hospital trusts in England said they could not meet demand for the child and adolescent community and inpatient care and children’s symptoms are becoming more severe and complex, following a year of disruption due to the pandemic.

Find out more in Daily Mirror.