Private schools are willing to offer their buildings and grounds for summer catch-up courses for children who have missed out most amid the pandemic, an independent schools chief has said.
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.
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.
Already six large independent schools – including King’s College School Wimbledon and Bury Grammar School – are looking to run their own summer catch-up provision at their own cost, Ms Robinson said.
She 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.”
On Wednesday, Boris Johnson told the Commons that a “catch-up plan” will be laid out for children who have missed long periods of schooling.
He said: “That’s absolutely crucial that we do that, we’ll have a big catch-up plan that (Education Secretary Gavin Williamson) is going to be announcing very shortly. It’s vital that kids catch up on the education that they have lost.”