A feature of our post-Covid times will be the educational inequalities that will be present, particularly affecting our hard-pressed neighbourhoods. I propose that we use a tried and trusted model of delivery to address this. For a long time, BAME communities have operated Supplementary Schools to support migrant children achieve educational attainment.
The government should set up a programme of Supplementary Schools, starting in the next academic year, to address inequalities that exist and support educational attainment. This should operate in all areas, but priority should be given to our most deprived neighbourhoods. This could help our school children to overcome any educational gaps created by Co-vid.
For over 20 years, I worked in inner-London managing community projects and programmes and, during that time, I saw many Supplementary Schools operating in our poorest neighbourhoods which were, generally, successful. Initially, many Supplementary Schools were set up to improve literacy and numeracy but, over time, became more focused on cultural issues and were often characterised by charismatic leadership and motivated children.
Supplementary Schools should be part of local schools and under the leadership of the headteacher. Not only, will they operate then on the same premises each Saturday during term time, utilising these community buildings, but also be at the heart of the school. Supplementary Schools would be sure then to meet good governance standards but also achieve the priorities set by the local school and the curriculum. For example, the exam years of 11 and 13 may be considered a national priority because of Co-vid, but also the ‘transition years’ of six and seven might also be a priority. However, head teachers should be empowered to decide the priorities for their area.
Supplementary Schools should be led by qualified teachers but also be open to new teacher graduates. Both should be paid the standard rate for this teaching work. This will ensure children get taught to the highest teaching professional standards and recent teacher graduates will get valuable experience.
The Supplementary School curriculum should be built around literacy and numeracy, but also include an element of play or creative skills so we can be confident that mental well-being of our children is maintained.
A programme of Supplementary Schools would create an investment environment where, in the future, the outcome will be a better qualified and more effective workforce. The government, as stewards of the economy, would see a return on their investment.