SCHOOLS serving areas of disadvantage in Northern Ireland are receiving significantly more Covid catch-up funding than other regions, a report has found.
The Education Policy Institute (EPI) has analysed programmes established to help children who have faced months of disruption.
It noted that while every region provided additional funding support, plans differed in their level and focus on disadvantaged pupils.
Half of the extra funding in the north, it said, was “explicitly focused towards schools with more disadvantaged intakes”.
By comparison, the share for poorer pupils in England and Scotland was about 20 per cent.
The executive has provided £28 million for catch-up support, about £82 per pupil.
This has included activities in schools in summer 2020 and the Engage programme.
Engage aims to limit any long-term adverse impact of the lockdown on educational standards by supporting pupils’ learning on their return to school. It does this through one-to-one, small group or team teaching support.
While it is open to all schools, there is a particular focus on those who educate young people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.
The amount of money available varies depending on school size and the proportion of pupils entitled to free school meals.
The EPI report said the level of catch-up funding was lower in Northern Ireland than elsewhere, but a larger share targeted disadvantaged pupils.
“In contrast to the rest of the UK, significantly more funding is being provided to disadvantaged schools. In particular, schools with more than 28 per cent of pupils eligible for free school meals have received significantly more,” EPI said.
“Schools in this category with 200-1000 pupils will receive about £25,000 and schools with more than 1,000 pupils about £50,000. This is intended to fund a range of extra teaching resources.
“In schools where less than 28 per cent of pupils are eligible for free school meals, allocations range from £4,000 to £8,000 and are only intended to fund a small number of substitute teacher days.”
In addition, £12m was made available for summer activities in schools and virtual support for pupils going into P7.
“Disadvantaged pupils are likely to have lost most learning time over lockdown. Of the four plans, both the Engage programme in Northern Ireland and the ALP programme in Wales are strongly targeted towards more disadvantaged schools, with about 50 per cent of the funding targeted at more disadvantaged schools,” EPI said.
“All four nations have announced packages of catch-up funding. However, even before the current lockdown, these plans seemed modest and insufficient right across the UK given the scale of the challenge. With the further closure of schools to most pupils, policymakers should be adding to these resources and focusing a greater share of these resources on more disadvantaged pupils.”
— to www.irishnews.com