DfE change of heart: catch-up funding can be for students with GCSE English and maths

The government has given in to pressure to widen the number of students eligible for 16 to 19 catch-up funding by including those that have already passed their English and maths GCSEs.

The change, announced today by the Education and Skills Funding Agency, means that those students who achieved a grade 4, a pass, can benefit from the extra “catch-up” sessions if their learning was disrupted by the pandemic.

The government previously said that colleges could only spend the funding on learners who had not passed the subjects.

Only those with a grade five or above in English and/or maths are now excluded from the fund.

Today’s updated guidance said: “Providers should prioritise support for students who have not achieved a grade four in English or maths.

“However, further to those students, if providers have funding available within their allocations they should consider whether any young people with a grade four also need catch up support.

“Providers should prioritise students that will benefit most from small group tuition.”

The guidance reiterated that the funding should be used to “support the tuition activity above and beyond the programmes of education already planned for 2020 to 2021”.

Association of Colleges chief executive David Hughes welcomed today’s decision.

“Really pleased that our ask for the eligibility to be extended on this has been heard,” he tweeteed.

“Gives more flexibility to colleges to meet needs for catch up with students. Well done and thanks ESFA.”


Ministers unveiled plans for the £96 million one-off fund for 2020-21 in July, following a U-turn on their unpopular decision to exclude 16 to 19 providers from the £1 billion Covid catch-up fund for schools.

The £96 million comes from a £350 million pot originally allocated for the government’s National Tutoring Programme.

At the time, the government said the fund was to “provide small group tutoring activity for disadvantaged 16 to 19 students whose studies have been disrupted”.

Although ESFA’s initial guidance stated that funding would be allocated on the basis of the number of learners without an English or maths pass, there was no stipulation that the money be spent only on those learners.

But updated guidance issued by the ESFA in August controversially said that “although the actual tuition does not need to be for GCSE English or maths, the students supported all need to be those who had not achieved grade 4 or above in at least one of those subjects at this level by age 16”.

The change was not welcomed by college membership bodies and was branded “bureaucratic madness”.

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