Charities & university to provide urgent catch-up support for schools

Wed 14 April, 2021
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Two local charities have joined forces with the University of Bedfordshire to launch a Covid Catch-up Support Programme for disadvantaged pupils across the county.

Launched this week, the Harpur Trust and Connolly Foundation are working in partnership with the University’s School of Teacher Education to deliver the programme in which trainee teachers will be delivering catch-up sessions in primary and secondary schools throughout the summer term.

Trainee teacherAs well as gaining experience in the classroom, this paid initiative will offer the trainee teachers an opportunity to earn some well-earned money, after restrictions of the pandemic prevented many students from working their usual part-time jobs and earning a living wage.

Juliet Fern, Executive Dean of the University’s Faculty of Education and Sport, said: “This is an exciting and innovative project to support our local schools. The University of Bedfordshire is delighted that its trainee teachers are being given this opportunity, which will enhance their course school placements. It will provide them with more experience in schools, working on a range of teaching and learning activities. It will also prepare them for their future work in schools, supporting pupils to achieve, whilst recognising the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Disadvantaged pupils have been hardest hit by the pandemic and the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) estimates that these pupils could have lost as much as two thirds of a year in learning. The government has already committed a ‘Covid catch-up premium’ of £1.7bn to provide a nationwide tutoring programme and summer schools. However educationalists have called for more to be done to support disadvantaged pupils, as well as calling for schools to have greater control over the way in which the funding is used.  Representatives of the University of Bedfordshire, Harpur Trust and the Connolly Foundation hope that their collaborative Covid Catchup Support Programme may help to ‘bridge the gap’ for pupils in Bedfordshire.

Harpur TrustA spokesperson for the charities said: “We are excited to be working with each other and with the University of Bedfordshire to help tackle a national issue at a local level.  We are determined that the pupils hardest hit by the pandemic should receive as much support as possible to enable them to catch-up with their learning and have the best possible chance to fulfil their potential.

The Connolly Foundation“Our programme isn’t a generic tutoring package and so will provide schools with real ownership over what the pupils learn, how and when.  We wanted our scheme to be as bespoke as possible and we’ve been working hard to match up students with schools to ensure the best fit.  Our scheme is completely free for the schools and we hope it will add further support where it is most needed.”

Kelli Foster, Headteacher at Mark Rutherford Upper School, said: “The pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption to the education of young people. This programme will enable us to support our students who need to catch up academically after two periods of remote learning in the last calendar year. We feel very fortunate to have been allocated a trainee teacher from the University of Bedfordshire.  The strong partnership we have with both the Harpur Trust and Connolly Foundation, as well as our links with the university, will ensure we support our students most affected from being away from the classroom”.                                         

Cllr Richard Wenham, Leader of Central Bedfordshire Council, said: “This last year has been an especially difficult time for disadvantaged young people. The Covid Catch-up Support Programme is an exciting initiative which complements the work already underway in Bedfordshire’s schools.”Trainee teacher

Twenty-four trainee teachers are delivering the catchup sessions and the charities worked with local employment specialists Allstaff Recruitment to place them directly into schools.

Tracey Finch, Director at Allstaff Recruitment Limited, said: “We take great pride working in conjunction with charitable trusts and businesses to support local community projects.  As an agency, we provide innovative recruitment solutions and it is our privilege to work in partnership with the Harpur Trust, Connolly Foundation and the University of Bedfordshire on this community project.”

There is high demand for Bedfordshire’s Covid Catch-up Support Programme and schools in the most disadvantaged areas have been targeted in the first wave of teaching, which started on 12th April 2021.

For future updates on the scheme, follow @UoB_TE, @TheHarpurTrust and @ConnellyCharity on Twitter.

Prospective students interested in studying teaching at the University of Bedfordshire are encouraged to visit the School of Teacher Education’s webpage where information about a variety of undergraduate and postgraduate teacher courses can be found – including Primary Education, Early Years Studies, Secondary PGCE and Special Educational Needs and Disability:


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