Private schools are offering their buildings and grounds for summer catch-up lessons for ‘disadvantaged’ state pupils left behind by lockdown

  • Independent Schools Council will offer up classrooms and playing fields
  • Summer camps have been cancelled so time could be offered to local children
  • Private schools also plan to defy advice and open at start of new academic year 

Some of Britain’s top private schools are willing to offer their buildings and grounds for summer catch-up courses for state children who have missed out most during the coronavirus pandemic, it was revealed today.

Julie Robinson, chief executive of the Independent Schools Council (ISC), said a number of fee-paying schools have greater capacity to help as their normal events bookings over the summer have been cancelled.

Six large independent schools – including King’s College School Wimbledon and Bury Grammar School – are already looking to run their own summer catch-up provision at their own cost, Ms Robinson said. 

The offer of help came as many private schools are planning to and open at the new academic year ‘come what may’ regardless of what the Government advice is – as parents paying fees put pressure on them to reopen or withhold cash.

The ISC, which represents more than 1,300 private schools, has written to the Education Secretary to offer their support in hosting catch-up courses in August to help ‘close the disadvantage gap’.

The letter to Gavin Williamson said: ‘If a national scheme can be organised and catch-up courses can be delivered regionally, independent schools will willingly support extra tuition provision in whatever practical ways they can: providing classrooms, catering and other staffing as far as they are able.’

It comes as the Government is due to announce details of its summer catch-up programme this week.

King’s College School Wimbledon are among the private schools offering to open their doors to state school children this summer – and will also pick up the bill 


Julie Robinson, chief executive of the Independent Schools Council (ISC), has offered help as Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is set to  announce details of its summer catch-up programme this week

Teaching unions were today accused by MPs of running a ‘disgraceful political campaign’ to keep classrooms closed by making parents fear they are ‘deathtraps’ when children can now go to Primark but not to school.

Rowing broke out as the heads of the four main teaching unions appeared before the Education Select Committee to discuss the impact of coronavirus on young people.

Tory chairman Robert Halfon asked them: ‘Can you explain why parents and children can have access to Primark over the coming weeks and months but not to schools?’

Mr Halfon also questioned the safety regime being demanded for teachers to return, suggesting they were being falsely compared to nurses who he said work in far more ‘hazardous and dangerous’ conditions than schools.

Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the NEU, Britain’s largest teaching union, interrupted and hit back: ‘If you have a quarrel with the risk assessments in schools, then take that up with the DfE (Department for Education) on whose guidance those risk assessments are being done’. 

And just a week after the NEU called for a ‘can-do mentality’ to get pupils back in class, Dr Bousted said that social distancing means schools will be unable to fully reopen in September meaning millions of children face ‘blended learning’ – pupils learning at school and at home. 

MPs on the committee, held on Zoom, reacted with fury to her comments.  Tory MP Jonathan Gullis, a former teacher, said he was ‘outraged’ with the unions and said: ‘I’ve never been so frustrated in my entire life as sitting in this committee, listening to what’s being said’ and accused the NEU of ‘running a political campaign to make sure schools did not open that is utterly disgraceful’.

Dr Patrick Roach, General Secretary of the NASUWT union then insisted that they were all working to get children back but had to make sure it was ‘within the country’s health and safety rules’. 

Mr Gullis said: ‘Whether you like it or not it has come across to parents that these schools are death traps and that is not the case’. 

Ms Robinson added that around 80% of private schools have said they would be interested in running courses targeted at children who need the most help in catching up if they were given extra funding.

‘It’s really important for us that we’re not overlooked as a sector. It would be a total shame. I think it would be a loss to the country, a loss to the joint effort,’ Ms Robinson told the PA news agency.

She said: ‘There are independent schools who won’t have their usual holiday time bookings and will have space available. Not so much in term time, because owing to the distancing requirements they can’t get all of their own pupils in, but in the downtime independent schools can potentially host.

‘Independent schools are poised ready to support and provide a venue for extra catch-up work.’

Jo Anderson, principal and headmistress at Bury Grammar School, is hoping to run curriculum-based days for the first time over the summer for Year 10 and Year 12 students who have exams next year.

The school wants to support pupils from state schools with catch-up work if the guidance allows it.

She told PA: ‘We’re aware that, you know, potentially here we have a generation of young people, not just here in our school but nationally, that have missed out and that’s heartbreaking.

‘So, if it were possible – but that’s a big if, of course – we would absolutely love to support pupils in other schools.

‘I know there’s been talk about supporting pupils from a welfare perspective and a mental health perspective and that’s something I think that Bury Grammar School is also really very good at.

‘There is very much a will in this school to support not only our own pupils, but any other young people whose parent schools feel it would be of a benefit to them to come and spend some time here.’

For Bury Grammar School, additional funding is not the issue, but Ms Robinson said many fee-paying schools do not have the resources to run courses themselves and to manage all the costs.

The ISC chief executive said: ‘We’ve not been led to expect any funding. Although, if there were the opportunity of some funding then the take-up would be vastly increased.

‘We just don’t want to find ourselves in a position where independent schools are in some way inadvertently excluded from the really good job that they can do with a whole range of pupils.’

Some of Britain’s best-known fee-paying schools are organising their own track and trace systems – with plans to have them operational for September. 

One governor at a leading private school said headteachers are ‘furious’ with the Government over its dithering on the issue of schools reopening. 

He told the Telegraph schools ‘could have legally and safely opened this term’, adding: ‘We have had enough. 

‘We will definitely open in September using our own hygiene measures, our own risk-based assessment of social distancing and our own test and trace system.

‘There is no confidence left in the Government, given their failed promises. All schools should do the same.’

Chairman of the Independent Schools Council, Barnaby Lenon, has called for ministers to give headteachers the freedom to reopen from September if they think it is appropriate.

Mr Lenon, a former headmaster of Harrow School, said that the Government should rely on ‘the good judgement of heads, all of whom will have carried out risk assessments’. He added there was now ‘significant demand’ for more flexibility on how private schools should reopen. 

A teacher at the front of a class of Year 12 pupils at Ortu Gable Hall School in Corringham, Essex as older students returned this week – but millions of children remain at home until at least September

Downing Street’s schools policy has come under criticism after officials rowed back on plans to have every primary school pupil return to school before summer – and then said it would be encouraging this. 

Marcus Rashford says Boris Johnson THANKED him for speaking up for the underprivileged after the Man United star’s free school meals campaign 

England striker Marcus Rashford today revealed Boris Johnson phoned him and thanked him for using his profile to help feed vulnerable families as the football star said he is already considering his next child poverty campaign.  

Manchester United star Rashford spoke with the Prime Minister on Tuesday, after he was forced into a U-turn and agreed that 1.3million children currently eligible for free lunches in England will get vouchers worth £15 a week that can be spent in supermarkets.

Speaking to the BBC, the 22-year-old said: ‘I was obviously shocked it’s a big decision for someone to make. I’m just grateful the Prime Minister did change his decision and he understood.’ 

On his conversation with the Prime Minister, he said: ‘He was just saying thank you for using what I’ve built in a positive manner, we was sort of thanking each other because he didn’t have to do what he done and neither did I.

‘He was grateful that someone had an opinion and shared it with people and had been that voice for people who didn’t have the platform to speak out as much as they’d like too.’ 

Revealing the campaigning will continue, he said his big win off the pitch had ‘bought an extra six weeks’ for him to ‘figure out what’s next’. He said: ‘I don’t want this to be the end of it because there are more steps that need to be taken and we just need to analyse the response. People are struggling all year around so we still need to learn more about the situation people are in and how we can help them best’.

New guidance this week said that all secondary school pupils in England could return before summer – but just for one day. 

Responding to a legal challenge about its lockdown policies, the Government recently admitted in a High Court document that it was a ‘request, not a direction’ for schools to shut down.

Private schools plan to reference the document to convince insurers that a September reopening is safe.    

School closures could ‘put back years of slow progress on social mobility’ with privately educated pupils almost twice as likely to have online lessons than their state school counterparts.

The ‘prominent’ attainment gap between disadvantaged and more wealthy students is set to widen further amid the coronavirus pandemic, a report has revealed.

Researchers claim this gap could become permanent without ‘a concerted effort’ to help poorer pupils once schools reopen.

The stark warning from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) comes as Government sources refused to confirm whether all pupils will be able to return to school full-time in September.

Researchers from the IFS and University College London’s Institute of Education surveyed 4,157 parents with children aged between eight and 15 in English private and state schools from April 29 to May 12.

Some 79 per cent of families paying for private education said their child’s secondary school provides online classes.

This compares to just 41 per cent in state secondary schools attended by the most deprived children and only 53 per cent of state secondaries in middle class areas. 

More affluent secondary pupils in both sectors spend almost an hour more a day on schoolwork than the least advantaged.

They also have more support at home, have had ‘more active involvement’ from teachers and are ‘much more likely’ to have private tutoring, the report found.

Overall, more affluent secondary pupils across both sectors are ‘spending more time in almost every single educational activity than their peers from the worse-off fifth of families’.

On average, they devote almost an hour more a day on schoolwork than the least advantaged.

They have more support at home and are also ‘much more likely’ to have private tutoring.

Chairman of the Independent Schools Council, Barnaby Lenon, has called for ministers to give headteachers the freedom to reopen from September if they think it is appropriate

Responding to a legal challenge about its lockdown policies, the Government recently admitted in a High Court document that it was a ‘request, not a direction’ for schools to shut down (stock image)

Researchers from the IFS and University College London’s Institute of Education found school closures during the coronavirus lockdown could ‘put back years of slow progress on social mobility’. Pictured: A child maintains social distancing measures while washing hands ahead of a lesson at Earlham Primary School yesterday

Privately educated pupils almost twice as likely to have online lessons than their state school counterparts. Pictured: Children maintain social distancing measures while taking part in a lesson at Earlham Primary School yesterday

Just 41 per cent of children at state schools in the most deprived areas attended online classes during the lockdown period, compared to 79 per cent of families paying for private education said their child’s secondary school provides online classes. Pictured: Children maintain social distancing measures while playing in the playground at Earlham Primary School yesterday

On Tuesday Labour’s Rebecca Long-Bailey welcomed the Government’s mooted summer catch-up programme, but pressed Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to develop a national plan for education.

This would involve schools receiving additional resources to help disadvantaged children, and public buildings being used for socially distanced teaching.

The Government advises that schools should communicate their plans to parents once they have had a chance to work through them in detail. 

Official advice includes carrying out a risk assessment before opening to more children and young people, making sure that children and young people do not attend if they or a member of their household has symptoms of coronavirus, and promoting regular hand washing for 20 seconds with running water and soap

It is also advised that schools clean more often to get rid of the virus on frequently touched surfaces, such as door handles, handrails, tabletops, play equipment and toys. 

Teachers should reduce contact through smaller classes or group sizes and altering the environment as much as possible, such as changing the layout of classrooms reducing mixing between groups through timetable changes, such as staggered break times or by introducing staggered drop-off and collection times.

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