The UK headquartered registered charity / not-for-profit / NGO formed in 1919 is one of the world’s leading humanitarian aid organizations for children and when schools worldwide first closed in March 2020 to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, it turned its attention to the devastating impact this was having on children. Around 90% of the world’s school-going children – 1.6 billion girls and boys – had their education put on hold with massive disruptions in learning caused, which continue today as countries experience waves of the pandemic and new variants emerge, putting an entire generation of children at risk of never achieving their potential.
Save The Children’s Catch-up Clubs (CuC) were designed as an answer to combat this problem, providing children with the foundational learning needed to successfully return to school. CuCs support children aged 8-13 in upper primary grades who are furthest behind to achieve basic proficiency in literacy (reading comprehension) and numeracy (number recognition/simple calculations). Activities are delivered in intensive cycles to accelerate learning, accompanied by “wrap-around support” (child protection services, cash vouchers for families to cover education expenses) to address barriers to education and promote regular attendance.
CuCs are grounded in evidence-based approaches, including Save The Children’s flagship Literacy and Numeracy Boost programmes and Pratham’s Teaching at the Right Level methodology – one of the World Bank’s ‘Best Buys’ in 2020. By engaging children at their learning level and addressing social and economic barriers to education, CuCs provide tailored support to improve learning outcomes, ensure children’s safe return to school, and reduce dropout. Key indicators and a comprehensive learning agenda will measure the short and longer-term impacts of CuCs on children’s literacy/numeracy gains, their ability/confidence to stay in school, and their sense of safety and well-being.
Early results from CuC pilots show improvement in children’s literacy in just 13 weeks. In Uganda, six times more children achieved the highest reading level than at the start of the programme. In Colombia, 100% of children who remained in CuCs reached foundational literacy skills. Additionally, qualitative insights from beneficiaries, including children and their parents, demonstrate positive impact in engagement and progress in learning. According to one parent with four children in Catch-up Clubs: “They now engage in reading and writing on their own, which has helped improve their reading skills greatly. The children always looked forward to attending the CuC sessions, as they enjoy the fun-based activities and found it much better than staying at home.”
Catch-up Clubs have scaled rapidly since the development of the model in 2021, with pilots having launched in Uganda, Myanmar and Colombia and preparations underway to scale clubs in two countries and pilot in Nigeria, DRC, Egypt, Bangladesh and Malawi during 2022.
Catch-up Clubs have the potential to generate results and evidence around key questions in the education sector, including the impact of cash and voucher assistance (CVA) on learning outcomes, school participation, addressing economic barriers to education, the impact of child protection case management systems on learning outcomes, sense of safety and wellbeing, and confidence in ability to stay in school, the impact of accelerated, remedial learning programs in supporting children to achieve grade-level proficiency in literacy and numeracy, and improve social and emotional learning (SEL), wellbeing, and participation in school. The bold vision is to scale Catch-up Clubs to support 250 million children in five years, while generating evidence to refine the CuC model for maximum impact. Prize funds would be spent on additional research, results sharing and lobbying for the CuC model to be taken up globally.