What does the NEU think about summer schemes?

The NEU thinks the job of education recovery needs to be a three year plan because the impact for students and staff has been significant and far-reaching. It is helpful that the Government’s recovery tsar, Sir Kevan Collins, has recognised the need for a multi-year recovery plan for education.

In February 2021, the Government announced an education recovery package for England. The package will provide some money for schools and colleges for recovery in the short term. This includes a one off £302m recovery premium for state primary and secondary schools, which builds on existing pupil premium funding and will provide additional funds of around £6,000 for the average primary school and around £22,000 for the average secondary school.

The recovery premium can be used by schools to fund summer provision for their pupils, for instance through laying on additional clubs and activities. However, there is no obligation to use this money for summer provision – it can also be used by schools to support disadvantaged pupils from the start of the September term.

In March 2021, the DfE also made £200m available for secondary schools (including special schools, and pupil referral units) to use for ‘summer schools.’ The NEU believes that schools are best placed to decide what learning schemes and interventions are needed for their cohorts and how best to spend DfE funding.

We believe that summer schemes will be important this year for supporting children and young people. Schools may want to plan some summer provision as part of a local offer but we don’t think schools should be required to co-ordinate the much wider support needed for families. The Government should be doing much more to help local authorities (LAs) co-ordinate schemes  with positive activities for young people. Schemes  would need to appeal to children, teenagers and  families/carers.

Should summer schemes be targeted?

Recent research released by the Sutton Trust and EEF has shown that disadvantaged pupils are less likely to attend summer schools. We think that local authorities need to audit and build on what is usually on offer in their area during the summer break via youth groups and adventure playgrounds, for example, to plan an appealing offer for children. There are real benefits if schools can let families know what is on offer in the local area, particularly families with children eligible for free school meals (FSM).

We think the Government needs a holiday local offer and that particular efforts should be made to engage with those pupils who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.  As a focus, we believe that access should be prioritised for school-age children and young people who are eligible for eligible for FSM, those identified as vulnerable, and those young people with SEND who have carers in need of respite.

What does the NEU think summer schemes at school should focus on?

Children starting school in September and new year 7 students will have transitions which are more complex than a usual year. The DfE guidance encourages schools to use summer schools funding to support incoming year 7 pupils and we think year 7 is a sensible focus.   LAs should work with schools and co-ordinate around what additional outreach or communication might be possible to prepare them for the new academic year, with the aim of building on the usual transition support already in place.

We are calling on the Government to urgently fund and support LAs to co-ordinate a holiday local offer which would be about fun, age-appropriate, meaningful activities over the summer break. It’s clear that parents/ carers want summer provision that is enjoyable and engaging for young people, rather than something designed for them to ‘catch up’.

Are school staff obliged to work during the summer to provide summer schemes?

School staff, including head teachers, are not contractually obliged to work during the summer period, and will need a restorative break as workload levels this term have been considerably higher than a usual summer term. Employers must guard against exacerbating teacher burn out and allow school staff to spend quality time with their own families.

In areas where schools are already planning some provision during the summer term, all staff who offer to work for some or part of the holiday in summer schemes must be remunerated with fair pay.

We believe that schools that are planning summer provision should be supported by their LA. We believe it is the LA’s responsibility, not the school’s, to coordinate. summer schemes.

The NEU recognises that many supply staff – especially those who have faced shortages of work during the pandemic – would be keen to lend their expertise to local summer schemes and should be allowed to do so with fair pay and support where required. If travel opportunities are limited, many staff may be open to volunteering, for fair pay, to make summer schemes possible.

What should be in a local  authority holiday local offer?

We think LAs should plan a holiday local offer. We advise that summer holiday schemes during the six -week holiday period should focus on:

  1. activities which children and young people will enjoy and be keen to participate in, to support their wellbeing, confidence and social and emotional development;
  2. outdoor activities such as sport sessions and camps, to counteract the lack of opportunities for physical exercise during lockdown;
  3. creative opportunities such as dance, art, music,
  4. sciences and adventure playgrounds;
  5. opportunities to reconnect with local community services, such as a local libraries, museums, galleries or art centres;
  6. an element of personal study support, where the LA can plan volunteer schemes where youth workers, community organisers and those education professionals who may wish to be involved. 

What about funding?

The Government must support LAs through funding a local offer for the holidays but has made insufficient commitments to date.

Additional investment is required so LAs can audit what local providers, partners, charities and youth groups in their area usually operate summer clubs and playschemes.

This would also aid in the recruitment of additional staffing and seeking the services of volunteers from other services. Involving local employer forums or partnerships could also allow the holiday local offer to benefit from the contribution of local businesses and other sectors. Opportunity area boards should be involved.

LAs will need to support existing providers who offer summer clubs because of the complexity around health and safety assessments, as well as potential additional health and safety considerations.

The holiday local offer should include the continued provision of the FSM scheme over the course of the summer break. We think the Government should fund LAs so that the offer can be free for families whose children are eligible for FSM as a minimum.

This holiday local offer would provide a wide range of informal learning opportunities and wellbeing activities which would be hugely beneficial to all children and young people, but particularly for those who have faced adversity and trauma during the pandemic. Investing in this offer is crucial as the first stage in a wider, long term road to education recovery and skills and opportunities for young people.