How to help kids have fun, catch up & keep learning this summer

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UK governments have allocated millions of pounds in ‘catch-up’ funding for schools this summer, to help children keep learning and boost their mental wellbeing in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. There’s a lot of information to get your head around, so here are some of the highlights of what’s on offer.

1. Summer of play

In February 2021, organisation PlayFirstUK – which is made up of child psychologists and education specialists – wrote to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson asking him to prioritise children’s ‘social and emotional wellbeing’ over extra lessons.

They advised giving children time to ‘reconnect and play with their friends’ and to be reminded ‘how good it feels to be outdoors’. So, why not enjoy a family bike ride, a picnic in the park, welly walks, bug hunts, or just let your children and their friends play out safely together?

Here are some suggestions in our article - Seven ways to get your kids outdoors

2. Holiday clubs and activities

Whilst building dens and climbing trees are all great ways to unwind this summer, some children also enjoy structured activities - both indoors and out.

Here are some of the things on offer across the UK nations:

  • Northern Ireland: Youth centres and organisations have been given £5m to run activity camps and to stay open for longer during the summer holidays. There will be an emphasis on the outdoors and helping children to ‘re-engage with their peers’. Keep an eye on the Northern Ireland Executive's news feed for information.

  • Scotland: £15m has gone towards funding free activities over the summer, with a focus on children and families who have been ‘particularly adversely affected by the pandemic’. Improving wellbeing will be central to these activities. Look on the Scottish government website for more information.

  • Wales: £5m has been put aside for a range of health and wellbeing activities for children and young people in the so-called ‘summer of fun' as part of the Welsh government's education COVID-19 recovery plan called Renew and reform.

  • England: Local authorities have access to £220m of funding to offer free holiday clubs to children who receive free school meals. As well as ‘educational attainment’, these clubs will provide activities which support the 'development of resilience, character and wellbeing’. Look on your local authority’s website for details of how to sign up.

This Parents' Toolkit article has some simple ideas for food related activities you can do with your kids.

3. Summer schools

Whilst you may be happy for your children to play out this summer, you might also want to know what’s on offer in terms of missed learning.

Here are some of the options around the UK:

  • Northern Ireland: Schools are being offered up to £5,000 a week to run free summer schemes for pupils in July and August. There will be some educational classes, but the focus will be on ‘play and emotional health and wellbeing’. Check with your child’s individual school to see if they are taking part.

  • Scotland: Pupils who qualify for free school meals will also be eligible for a £100 pandemic support payment for the summer. The 'Get into Summer' funding will support children and young people’s wellbeing and is distributed to councils and national partner organisations to build on existing summer provision. A Scottish Government marketing campaign will help local authorities and partners to promote the opportunities available in your local area. Here's an overview from BBC News.

  • Wales: The Government has funded 14,000 places for children on the 'School Holiday Enrichment Programme' (SHEP). You can find out more from your local authority.

  • England: Millions of pounds have been allocated to fund face-to-face summer schools for secondary school pupils – with a focus on those who are going into Year 7. The Department for Education feels this age group in particular may have missed ‘valuable preparation for secondary education’. The aim is to offer a blend of ‘academic education and enrichment activities’. Your secondary school should have announced by now (mid-June) if they are making use of that funding. There is also money available to primary and secondary schools in England for other summer school programmes, clubs and activities - so it’s worth checking with your child’s school about options for other age-groups as well.

Also, don't forget that most local libraries host reading competitions and other free book-related activities over the summer holidays.

4. Access to tuition

Tutoring is one of the key parts of the Government’s catch-up plans, although there has been some criticism of the amount of money available. Here are some of the ways your children can keep learning through tutoring:

  • Northern Ireland: £16 million has been given to schools to support the 'Engage Programme', which will address the disruption to children's learning with things like one-to-one and small group support. For more information on the programme, click here.

  • Scotland: There are several charities offering voluntary tutoring – if you type ‘free tutoring Scotland’ into your search engine you'll find a list of them.

  • Wales: Money has been put aside to bring in extra staff in schools to provide ‘bespoke support and mentoring for learners’. Your child’s school will have more details.

  • England: Over £1bn has now been put aside for the National Tutoring Programme, for primary and secondary pupils. The fund is intended for the most disadvantaged pupils who have been ‘hardest hit by the pandemic’. If you think your child may benefit from accessing a tutor, get in touch with your child's teacher. Schools can decide which pupils they think need the tuition.

Mental health and home learning tips, as well as six weeks of activities for summer 2021 and beyond!
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