Reform Scotland

Commission on school reform calls for radical programme of school catch-up

Experts propose extra eight hours per week for two years

The Commission on School Reform, the independent group of education experts set up by the think tank Reform Scotland, today asks the Scottish Government to set up a radical programme of catch-up to repair the damage caused to children by lost education during Scotland’s two national lockdowns.

Professor Lindsay Paterson, professor of education policy at the University of Edinburgh and a member of the Commission, has updated his previous research estimating the educational gap caused by school shutdown, as well as the staffing and financial requirements to close it.

The Commission is particularly concerned by the damage done to the life chances of children from disadvantaged backgrounds. The Educational Endowment Foundation last year – before the second lockdown – estimated that the inequality gap has grown during lockdown on a scale that would usually cover 5-6 years of primary school.

In an update of a paper published last year, the Commission has today released a new paper based on recent research on how the now period of closure is working. The statistics have been updated and are now based on an estimated 16 weeks of lost schooling. The recommendations can be summarised as follows:

  • Eight extra hours of tuition per week for two years, or five hours per week over three years
  • Extra hours to be completed during extended school opening in the late afternoons
  • Additional subsidies for disadvantaged children, to be managed by head teachers
  • Roughly 19,000 additional staff to oversee the catch-up sessions, including retired teachers, trainee teachers and other university students
  • All the staff would be paid at nationally agreed rates, and no teacher would be required to take part. But, as with the staffing of the NHS and the vaccination programme during the pandemic, many teachers may want to agree voluntarily to take part and to be paid on the same basis as the other staff.
  • Funding of roughly £130m per annum over two years

"Children in Scotland will have lost around four months of schooling since March - that’s around 40% of a normal school year.

“Although thousands of teachers have been providing good quality online learning and parents have done the best they can, the closures have led to a massive loss of learning. Many children will have actually gone backwards because such interruptions can lead to them forgetting what they have learnt before.

“With an end to closures now in sight, it is time to turn our attention to how to recover the learning that has been lost. We estimate it at sixteen weeks and have suggested an eight-hour extension to the school week for two years, or a five hour extension over three years.

“The Scottish and UK Governments are to be commended on the significant sums of money they are spending on the Covid recovery. There will be no money better spent than on ensuring our children’s education does not suffer.”

Professor Lindsay Paterson

NOTES TO EDITORS

  1. The updated briefing – Catching up the educational losses from Covid 19– can be downloaded below.
  2. The Commission on School Reform was set up by Reform Scotland and the Centre of Scottish Public Policy. More information, including its membership, can be seen here.
  3. Reform Scotland is Scotland’s independent, non-partisan think tank, with a commitment to: 
  • Increasing prosperity
  • A positive climate for entrepreneurs and innovators
  • Reform and modernisation of public services
  • Widening opportunity for all
  • Compassion for those who slip through the cracks
  • Greater courage and appetite for risk among policy-makers.

Media: for more information contact Message Matters (Andy Maciver, andy@messagematters.co.uk, 07855 261 244)