Coronavirus language gap to receive targeted funding

Children’s Minister Vicky Ford has announced that reception-age children will benefit from a multi-million pound package of funding to boost their early language skills.

Schools are being urged to sign up for an early years ‘catch up’ programme focused on raising outcomes in speaking and language skills among young pupils whose education has been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Up to £9 million is available for the programme to provide schools with training and resources, helping them deliver one-to-one and small-group support for five-year-olds whose spoken language skills may have suffered as a result of the pandemic.

The investment is part of the National Tutoring Programme, with every state funded school which has a Reception class invited to apply for this support, with priority given to schools with a high proportion of disadvantaged pupils.

Ford said: “Nurseries and other early years settings have played a huge part in keeping our youngest children safe and supported throughout the pandemic, but too many children have missed out on education at a crucial point in their development.

“Ahead of every pupil returning to the classroom full-time in September, we’re increasing the support available to get them back on track and ready to learn. We cannot afford for our youngest children to lose out, which is why this package of support is focused on improving early language skills for the Reception children who need it most, and especially those whose long-term outcomes who have been affected by time out of education.”

Alongside this, the Department has also confirmed supplementary funding of more than £23 million for Maintained Nursery Schools for the summer term 2021 to enable local authorities to provide them with stability while the Department confirms a long-term solution.

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