Call to give parents £30 catch-up voucher for each day children miss school due to Covid

Cash could pay for catch-up tutoring as Omicron ‘wreaks havoc’ on face-to-face learning

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Wednesday 05 January 2022 17:45
<p>The most recent figures showed around 120,000 students off each week in December</p>

The most recent figures showed around 120,000 students off each week in December

Parents should be given a £30-a-day catch-up voucher for each day their child is off school because of coronavirus, to help pay for the costs of remote learning, Liberal Democrats have said.

The call came as schools in areas of England including Middlesbrough and Birmingham remained closed to pupils after the Christmas break due to significant staff absences.

Lib Dem education spokesperson Munira Wilson said that Omicron will “wreak havoc” on schools in the coming weeks, with large numbers of pupils likely to be sent home because of illness or staff absences.

She accused ministers of leaving schools “woefully unprepared” for the coming chaos, and said they had failed to make support for schoolchildren a priority despite research suggesting that disruption to learning due to the pandemic will cost them as much as £46,000 in lost earnings over their lifetimes.

In an open letter to schools earlier this week, education secretary Nadhim Zahawi urged them to “do everything in your power to protect face-to-face learning” but accepted that staff absences will make that impossible for some.

He has called on retired teachers to come forward to fill gaps left by isolating colleagues in order to keep lessons going.

Ms Wilson said the most recent figures showed around 120,000 students off each week in December.

She said that the £30 voucher would cost around £3.6m a week – just over 1 per cent of the government’s initial catch-up fund – and would allow parents to pay for catch-up tutoring.

“The Omicron variant is without doubt going to wreak havoc as our schools return this week and the government has left schools woefully underprepared to deal with the chaos this will cause pupils, parents and teachers alike,” she said.

“No child should be left behind as we enter a time of unprecedented staff absences and case rates. Funding catch-up vouchers would empower parents to restore their children’s education, which the Conservatives have demonstrated time and again is not their priority.

“From a botched catch-up package to a complete failure on getting air purifiers into schools, the government must act radically so children are given the opportunity to catch up on the education they are missing due to the Conservatives’ incompetence.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We have committed to an ambitious and long-term education recovery plan, including an investment to date of nearly £5bn to support our tutoring programme, deliver world-class training for teachers, provide additional funding to schools, and to extend time in colleges by 40 hours a year.

“This unprecedented support will help children and young people to make up for learning lost and get back on track.”

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