Struggling secondary school pupils will now get extra help to catch up with their classmates, thanks to new funding.
Schools across Bradford are sharing a pot of £800,000 to spend on extra tuition for Year Seven children who are falling behind.
Each secondary has now been given £500 for every Year Seven child who did not reach level four in both English and maths SATs tests at primary school last year.
Only five per cent of such children go on to get five GCSEs at A* to C, including English and maths, the Department for Education has said. Head teachers can decide how to spend the cash, but it could fund summer schools, after-school tuition or new resources for classrooms.
The fund is worth £54.5 million nationally, with Bradford getting more cash than any other district in West Yorkshire.
The ‘catch-up premium’, announced by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg at last year’s Liberal Democrat autumn conference, has been widely welcomed.
But teaching unions say the focus on pupils in danger of failing their GCSEs was too narrow and target-driven.
Bradford East MP David Ward (Lib Dem) said: “It’s simply not right that we should be allowing children to transfer to secondary schools when they are far behind their colleagues. We have got to eliminate that. This is a huge issue of social mobility.”
Councillor Ralph Berry, executive member for children’s services at Labour-run Bradford Council, said: “We need to make sure this is put to good, effective use and I know Bradford schools are very focused on targeting children who need that extra help.”
Councillor Roger L’Amie, Tory education spokesman on the Council, said the cash should be targeted at the needs of each individual child.
Councillor Jeanette Sunderland, leader of the Council’s Liberal Democrat group, said the funding was a “really good idea”.
She said there was strong evidence to suggest that if children continued learning through their holidays, their levels of engagement in term-time rose.
But teaching unions were less positive. Ian Murch, Bradford spokesman for the NUT, said: “Anyone would like more money for schools. We will have to wait and see whether it is new money or whether it has been taken from somewhere else.”
He said while he did not disagree with the funding as such, he said its focus could prove to be too narrow. Mr Murch said a lot of money had already been pumped into schools to help those pupils who were in danger of just missing out on the benchmark five GCSE passes.
The NASUWT’s district spokesman, Pam Milner, said: “There are going to be children who are going to miss out.
“There are gifted and talented children who could do with extra help, or there are other children who could do with more help with vocational qualifications to prepare them for life.”