Teaching unions torpedo PM’s plan for extra classes to help kids catch up on Covid-hit learning with new pay demands


TEACHING unions have thrown plans to help school kids catch up on Covid disrupted classes into doubt with demands for extra pay.

They are insisting that teachers are given new contracts to compensate them if school days are lengthened or term dates extended for extra lessons.

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Nick Gibb said the school holidays could be changed

The demands, which are being backed by two of the country’s biggest teaching unions, will deal a major blow to the PM’s plans.

Boris Johnson has vowed to go “flat out” to help pupils catch up on learning they’ve lost due to the lockdown, and has floated extending the school year.

But Kevin Courtney, joint secretary of the National Education Union, said that will require a new pay deal for teachers.

He told the Telegraph: “Like everyone else, teachers have contracts, and changes to contracts need to be negotiated if there are to be any changes.

“Then there is the question of practicality – teacher working hours are already really long. This requires a conversation with the profession.”

The demand was backed by Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders.

He added: “Many schools already run after-school activities and holiday clubs but this is totally different from a blanket requirement to grind out more hours of learning from tired children with the likelihood of diminishing returns.”

Their remarks come after a minister hinted school summer holidays could be slashed permanently to help kids hammered by Covid.

While the school day may also be lengthened in an all-out bid to help millions claw back their lost education.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb vowed to leave “no stone unturned” in his mission to help children catch up after the pandemic.

He told MPs on the Education Select Committee that government is open to “all ideas” to beef up children’s schooling.

He said: “We just have to leave no stone unturned in making sure that we can help those young people catch up from the lost education.”

Union boss Kevin Courtney is demanding a new pay deal for teachers

Mr Gibb pointed out that may academy schools have been running longer school days for years.

And he hinted this could be rolled out nationwide to help kids, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

He said: “One of the great joys of the academy programme is the professional autonomy it gives to schools.

“Many have used that to extend the school day and have driven up standards.”

There is a pile of research which shows the six week summer holidays makes the education gap between rich and poor pupils far worse.

Ministers are considering slashing the six week summer holidays to four weeks so they can cram more lessons into what remains of this school year.

The proposal has sparked fresh calls for the summer holidays to be permanently cut.

Tory MP Jonathan Gullis, who sits on the education committee, said research shows cutting summer hols to a month “help in tackling the attainment gap”.

And he asked ministers is slashing them to a month could be made permanent.

Mr Gibb did not rule out the radical measure.

He replied: “There is evidence of lost learning during that period.

“There is also evidence about how quickly children can catch up in autumn.

“We are learning a huge amount from what has been happening in this pandemic.


“We will look at all ideas to ensure we will help children catch up.”

He added: “Schools have been working tremendously hard to provide high quality of remote education.

“But however good remote education is, it is never as good as having a child in the classroom with their teacher, with their fiends, being motivated with feedback constantly.”

Boris Johnson has said schools will reopen from March 8 “at the earliest”.

He is expected to spell out what years will go a back first later this month.