The Government is urging schools to sign up to an early years ‘catch up’ programme aimed at raising outcomes in speaking and language skills among young pupils whose education has been disrupted by Covid-19.
Up to £9m will be available for the programme - known as the Nuffield Early Language Intervention - to provide schools with training and resources, helping them deliver one-to-one and small-group support for five-year-olds whose spoken language skills may have suffered as a result of the pandemic.
‘Nurseries and other early years settings have played a huge part in keeping our youngest children safe and supported throughout the pandemic, but too many children have missed out on education at a crucial point in their development,’ said children’s minister Vicky Ford.
‘Ahead of every pupil returning to the classroom full-time in September, we’re increasing the support available to get them back on track and ready to learn.
‘We cannot afford for our youngest children to lose out, which is why this package of support is focused on improving early language skills for the Reception children who need it most, and especially those whose long-term outcomes who have been affected by time out of education.’ The funding announcement comes as the Prime Minister urges parents to return their children to school next week.
‘I have previously spoken about the moral duty to reopen schools to all pupils safely, and I would like to thank the school staff who have spent the summer months making classrooms Covid-secure in preparation for a full return in September,’ said Mr Johnson.
‘We have always been guided by our scientific and medical experts, and we now know far more about coronavirus than we did earlier this year.
‘As the Chief Medical Officer has said, the risk of contracting Covid-19 in school is very small and it is far more damaging for a child’s development and their health and well-being to be away from school any longer.
‘This is why it’s vitally important that we get our children back into the classroom to learn and to be with their friends. Nothing will have a greater effect on the life chances of our children than returning to school.’
The chief medical officers and deputy chief medical officers of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales yesterday issued a consensus statement on the current evidence of risks and benefits to health from schools and childcare settings reopening.
‘We are confident that multiple sources of evidence show that a lack of schooling increases inequalities, reduces the life chances of children and can exacerbate physical and mental health issues,’ it said.
‘School improves health, learning, socialisation and opportunities throughout the life course including employment. It has not been possible to reduce societal inequalities through the provision of home-based education alone. School attendance is very important for children and young people.
‘We are confident in the extensive evidence that there is an exceptionally small risk of children of primary or secondary school age dying from Covid-19.
‘The infection fatality rate (proportion of those who are infected who die) for those aged 5 to 14 is estimated at 14 per million, lower than for most seasonal flu infections. Every death of a child is a tragedy but Covid-19 deaths in children and teenagers are fortunately extremely rare and almost all deaths are in children with significant pre-existing health conditions.’