Think tank: Centre for Policy Studies
Author(s): Rachel Wolf; Jonathan Simons; Gabriel Milland
June 3, 2021
This report from UK think tank Centre for Policy Studies looks at how children can catch up after Covid.
New polling by Public First for the Centre for Policy Studies think tank shows that over two thirds (67%) of parents think children in England have been negatively affected by lockdown. A follow-up poll found that 57% of parents would support extending the school day by 30 minutes to give more time to catch up on academic subjects. The areas which are considered to have suffered the most are maths (62%), science subjects (41%) social skills (41%) and writing (38%). The focus groups for the project – carried out in Greater Manchester and Outer London – revealed that parents were much keener on any extra time in schools focusing on ‘the basics’ rather than activities such as play, sport or drama. The Government yesterday announced a further package of support for tutoring, and is considering extending time spent in school at the Comprehensive Spending Review in the autumn. The polling found that such pro-academic policies had overwhelming support from parents and the public. Of the options tested, tutoring was by far the most popular, and evidence shows it is the most effective – but it is also the most expensive. The report notes that parents are almost entirely unaware of the more than £1 billion that the Government has already committed to tutoring, and recommends a thorough overhaul of its communications strategy. To ensure students of all ages are given the opportunity to catch up with their studies, Public First and the CPS are proposing a temporary short extension to the core school day, allowing for more time to focus on the more academic subjects, alongside dedicated tutoring for those who need it. The polling finds that a majority of parents (57%) support a longer school term and shorter school holidays as a measure to help students catch up. A big majority of parents – 65% – support free hours with private academic tutors. The evidence is that these policies are all both popular and effective, and address the most significant area of damage caused to children’s education. The findings also that parents say it is up to schools to make sure children catch up, with 78% of parents saying they should be primarily responsible. On how to fund these measures, parents were much more likely to say they were willing for their own taxes to go up to pay for catch-up than the general population: the research finds that 42% of parents are willing to pay more tax to fund efforts to help children catch up at school, compared to only 36% of the English general public. Recognising that extending the school day would incur additional ancillary costs (eg: transport, utilities, insurance, etc), the think tanks are suggesting that the additional government funding should be allowed to cover these costs. The report also recommends making it clear that any extra spending would be temporary and not result in a permanent increase in funding or taxation.