Secondary pupils and all children leaving primary school will be offered summer lessons

Summer lessons will be offered to children leaving primary school and all secondary pupils as part of a £700million catch-up package designed to reverse the impact of coronavirus lockdowns on education.

Under plans due to be announced today, secondaries will offer face-to-face teaching over the holidays, with ministers keen to see summer classes for incoming Year 7 pupils.

The summer schools will be funded with £200million from the package, while a £302million Recovery Premium will also see every primary school handed £6,000 and secondaries £22,000 each to fund further support for pupils most in need.

The Department for Education said this will come on top of another £200million in funding for the National Tutoring Programme and other tuition schemes and could be spent on extra clubs, activities or teaching for those who have fallen behind. However, radical measures previously discussed, like permanently trimming the summer holidays or lengthening the school day, do not figure in the plans.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: ‘Teachers and parents have done an heroic job with home schooling, but we know the classroom is the best place for our children to be.

‘When schools reopen and face-to-face education resumes on March 8 our next priority will be ensuring no child is left behind as a result of the learning they have lost over the past year.

‘This extensive programme of catch-up funding will equip teachers with the tools and resources they need to support their pupils and give children the opportunities they deserve to learn and fulfil their potential.’

The announcement comes ahead of details expected to be released tomorrow on the replacement scheme for this year’s cancelled GCSEs and A-levels.

It follows new official figures showing infections falling by 20 per cent on last Tuesday as Britain recorded just 8,489 Covid cases in the lowest daily rise since October 2, while deaths tumble with another 548 victims.  

The promising figures will be pounced upon by anti-lockdown Tory MPs who are calling for Mr Johnson to ease lockdown quicker. Even top scientists have hinted that economically-crippling measures could be relaxed sooner.

This week, the Prime Minister unveiled No10’s ultra-cautious blueprint back to normality, which could see all virus-controlling restrictions eased by June 21, if things go well. Schools will return on March 8, but there will be almost no further loosening of the draconian curbs before Easter.

Nicola Sturgeon yesterday unveiled an even more cautious lockdown exit roadmap for Scotland, which will see the stay at home rule lifted and the return of some non-essential shops on April 5. The Scottish First Minister said the coronavirus situation in Scotland is ‘still quite precarious’.

But hopes of lockdown being drastically eased in the next few months could be dashed if Britain’s vaccine roll-out fails to pick up pace. It has slowed down over the past month, with just 210,000 doses dished out on Monday in the UK – down a quarter on last Tuesday.

It means around 335,000 Britons are getting inoculated for the first time each week, piling pressure on No10 to urgently ramp up the drive so that the path to freedom isn’t threatened. 

In other coronavirus developments: 

  • A total of 5,691 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending February 12 mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) – the lowest figure since the week ending January 1; 
  • Unemployment has risen to 5.1 per cent with younger people bearing the brunt as Rishi Sunak prepares to extend the furlough scheme in his Budget next week; 
  • Matt Hancock has defended rushing through PPE procurement after a wave of criticism about lack of transparency and cronyism; 
  • Scientists have suggested masks will still be used in 2026 after Sir Patrick Vallance said they could reappear next winter;
  • Millions of secondary school pupils will have to wear masks in the classroom when they return to school on March 8;
  • Scientists unveiled ‘spectacular’ data suggesting one dose of the Covid vaccine is cutting the hospitalisation risk among the over-80s by three-quarters;
  • 178 virus deaths were announced yesterday – the fewest since mid-November. The seven-day average for cases was 11,186, compared with a peak of 68,053 on January 8;
  • Downing Street confirmed ministers will examine the case for so-called ‘vaccine passports’, having rejected the idea two months ago. 

Summer lessons will be offered to children leaving primary school and all secondary pupils as part of a £700million catch-up package designed to reverse the impact of Covid on education. Pictured: Boris Johnson takes part in an online lesson during a visit to Sedgehill School in Lewisham, south east London, on February 23

Under plans to be announced today, secondaries will offer face-to-face teaching over the holidays, with ministers keen to see summer classes for incoming Year 7 pupils (file image)

Under plans to be announced today, secondaries will offer face-to-face teaching over the holidays, with ministers keen to see summer classes for incoming Year 7 pupils (file image)

Why lockdowns DON’T always stop thousands dying of Covid: Britain has had some of the toughest rules but ranks in the top five WORST death tolls… while Cuba’s draconian measures helped it escape lightly 

Britain has endured some of the toughest lockdown restrictions in the world — but has still suffered the fourth highest death toll of the pandemic, data showed today.

Oxford University researchers ranked the UK’s curbs on daily life the sixth harshest out of 180 countries, after taking into account school and office closures, bans on social gatherings, international travel restrictions and orders to not leave the home.

Only the Republic of Ireland was found to have tougher restrictions in Europe. Although its curbs are broadly similar to England’s, the country has also stopped construction work and click-and-collect shopping. Germany, the US and France all had less stringent curbs on daily life. 

But when countries were ranked by Covid deaths per million people, the UK had suffered the fourth highest death toll, according to separate figures from OurWorldInData, despite having stricter measures than Belgium, Slovenia and the Czech Republic — the only countries where more people died of the virus.

It had also suffered the highest fatality rate from the virus out of the top 10 countries with the harshest restrictions, although this may be because the lockdown became stricter only after cases had surged.

The UK may have suffered more fatalities than other countries because of the rapid spread of the more infectious Kent variant, and after tens of thousands died in the darkest days of the first wave when potentially infected patients were discharged to care homes. Delays in taking action and differences in how the data was compiled between countries could may also explain the differences.

The data does not show that lockdowns do not work because a lack of any restrictions, scientists estimate, would have killed tens of thousands more people.

In Cuba, which had a lockdown ranked the toughest in the Oxford study, the death rate was 2.4 per 100,000 people, compared to 178 per 100,000 in the UK.

An extra £18million is being directed to support language development in the early years sector to try to stop the very youngest children being permanently disadvantaged.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: ‘Our package of measures will deliver vital support to the children and young people who need it most, making sure everyone has the same opportunity to fulfil their potential no matter their background.

‘I know that longer-term support over the length of this Parliament will be vital to ensure children make up for lost learning. Our Education Recovery Commissioner Sir Kevan Collins will be engaging with teachers, school and college leaders and families over the coming weeks and months to develop our longer term plans.’  

The Times Educational Supplement reported that one aspect of the plan, which was to issue grades significantly earlier than normal – in early or mid-July – is now in doubt. 

Exams regulator Ofqual will also need to clarify the potentially important role of ‘mini-exams’. Meanwhile, teaching unions yesterday appeared to back down in their opposition to Mr Johnson’s ‘big bang’ plan for all schools to return from March 8.

Last week the main unions signed an open letter demanding the PM ‘go no further than a phased return’, but their call was disregarded by the Government.

The National Education Union yesterday said its priority was ensuring schools had ‘robust safety measures’ instead of trying to block the reopenings.

Geoff Barton, of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that while a slower return would have been more logical, there was a ‘whole range of different views’ among headteachers. 

He added that, although mass testing presented a ‘huge logistical issue’ for larger schools, most teachers were ‘looking for ways of solving those problems’.

Scientists have warned that school reopenings could increase Covid’s reproduction rate by up to 50 per cent. 

It comes after the Prime Minister hit back at Tories and scientists suggesting lockdown could be eased faster – as Wales and Scotland warned his roadmap might be too quick.

The PM said he was being ‘sensible and prudent’ with his four-stage plan after attacks on the approach from both sides.

‘Some people will say we’re going to be going too fast, some people will say we’re going too slow,’ he said on a visit to a school in South London.

Mr Johnson refused to guarantee that all restrictions will definitely be lifted by June 21 as scheduled, but insisted he was ‘hopeful’ it can happen.

The intervention came after Matt Hancock slapped down Professor Neil Ferguson for suggesting the government’s blueprint for England could be speeded up if things go well.

However, Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg risked setting more hares running by suggesting that there could be ‘flexibility’ if the government keeps ‘smashing’ vaccine targets.

Tories and business have been voicing disquiet about the ultra-cautious approach being taken by ministers, even though the vaccination drive has been surging ahead.

Schools will return on March 8, but there will be almost no further loosening of the draconian curbs before Easter. There will be a five week gap between each of the four main stages of the plan, with scientists having won the argument in government that time is needed to assess the impact.   

The PM has been boosted by snap polls showing the public largely backs his stance, with 46 per cent telling YouGov it is about right – and around a fifth suggesting it is too fast. 

However, radical measures previously discussed, like permanently trimming the summer holidays or lengthening the school day, do not figure in the plans

However, radical measures previously discussed, like permanently trimming the summer holidays or lengthening the school day, do not figure in the plans 

The announcement comes ahead of details expected to be released tomorrow on the replacement scheme for this year’s cancelled GCSEs and A-levels (file image)

The announcement comes ahead of details expected to be released tomorrow on the replacement scheme for this year’s cancelled GCSEs and A-levels (file image)

The summer schools will be funded with £200million from the package. A £302million Recovery Premium will also see every primary school handed £6,000 and secondaries £22,000 each to fund further support for pupils most in need (file image)

The summer schools will be funded with £200million from the package. A £302million Recovery Premium will also see every primary school handed £6,000 and secondaries £22,000 each to fund further support for pupils most in need (file image)

An extra £18million is being directed to support language development in the early years sector to try to stop the very youngest children being permanently disadvantaged. Pictured: Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits Sedgehill School in south east London on February 23

An extra £18million is being directed to support language development in the early years sector to try to stop the very youngest children being permanently disadvantaged. Pictured: Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits Sedgehill School in south east London on February 23

Nicola Sturgeon reveals rival roadmap out of lockdown: Scotland will begin ‘significant return to normality’ with shops, gyms and hairdressers starting to open from April 26 – as First Minister hints pubs and restaurants could fully reopen BEFORE England 

Nicola Sturgeon today unveiled a lockdown exit roadmap for Scotland which will see the stay at home rule lifted and the return of some non-essential shops on April 5 – a week earlier than in England. 

She said her ‘deliberately cautious’ plan will start with more pupils heading back to classrooms on March 15 and with the limit on outdoor mixing being increased on the same date to allow four people from a maximum of two households to meet.   

April 5 will then see all remaining pupils return to school as well as communal worship being allowed to restart. 

The definition of ‘essential’ retail will also be changed at this point to allow more shops to reopen – one week before the return of all retail in England which is earmarked to take place from April 12. 

However, Scotland will have to wait until April 26 for a ‘phased but significant reopening of the economy’ when the nation will return to a tier system of restrictions.   

Nicola Sturgeon unveiled her own far more cautious exit strategy this afternoon, with non-essential retail not set to start opening until the last week in April. Welsh government experts have also warned that Mr Johnson’s timeline is ‘risky’ and the outbreak could spiral out of control again.

Professor Neil Ferguson – whose grim modelling triggered the initial lockdown last year – sounded a bright note on Times Radio last night.

‘Hopefully what we’ll see when each step happens is a very limited resurgence of infections. In which case, there’s a chance we can accelerate the schedule,’ he said.

However, Mr Hancock dismissed the idea of speeding the schedule up in a round of interviews this morning. ‘No. We need to see the effects of each step, and that takes five weeks,’ he said.

A row also erupted today over vaccine supply as Pfizer slapped down the Health Secretary’s claim that a lack of doses was to blame for their slowest ever jabbing day on Sunday.

Matt Hancock claimed a delay in the supply schedule will result in fewer jabs being dished out. But he also said there would be some ‘bumper weeks in March’ to make up for the lag.

Both Pfizer and AstraZeneca – manufacturers of the jabs currently deployed in the UK – say there is no issue with deliveries.

Pfizer sources today told MailOnline there were ‘no supply challenges’ and deliveries were arriving as planned. AstraZeneca yesterday admitted there were ‘fluctuations’ in supply at plants but that it was still ‘on track’ with orders.

Official figures showed Britain only administered 150,000 vaccines on Sunday, in the worst daily performance since the NHS roll-out began to gather speed last month. The number of first doses dished out has dropped by 40 per cent week-on-week.

With a rapid inoculation drive crucial to Britain’s hopes of lockdown being eased in the next few months, critics say there is ‘no excuse’ for the rollout slowing down.

Think-tank bosses believe it is unlikely supply is solely behind the downturn because there would be reports of centres across the country running out of stock – which hasn’t been the case.

Mr Johnson put a successful vaccine roll-out at the heart of his lockdown-easing plan, which he unveiled yesterday. So long as the operation continues successfully, all restrictions could be dropped in England by June 21. Any hiccups could threaten that target.

Britain is racing to give as many first doses to over-50s as possible before the end of March, when millions of second jabs must be rolled out – which will inevitably slow the operation. The PM has pledged to jab all 32million in the top nine groups by April 15 and every adult by the end of July. 

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