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Education Secretary urges remaining schools to participate in National Tutoring Programme

Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi

Parents in England will be given access to data revealing how their school is using the National Tutoring Programme, the Education Secretary has announced today (2 May 2022).

The programme is central to the Education Secretary’s pledge to parents, ensuring that any child who falls behind in English and maths will receive tailored support to help them get back on track, and parents will be kept up to date on their progress. This will support the government’s Levelling Up mission for education, for 90% of primary school children to achieve the expected standard in reading, writing and maths by 2030.

The National Tutoring Programme is part of the Government’s ambitious covid recovery plan, offering Government funded, high quality catch-up tutoring, world class training for teachers and early years practitioners, additional funding for schools, and extending time in colleges by 40 hours a year, backed by an additional £5bn investment.

In a letter to all schools, sent today, the Education Secretary confirmed his intention to publish the data of each school’s involvement this Autumn, helping parents to understand how their school is taking up the offer of Government-funded support to help pupils catch up on lost learning. The data will also be shared with Ofsted, with the department working with Ofsted over the coming months on the best use of that data.

Since the tutoring programme’s launch in November 2020, around 1.2 million high quality tutoring courses have been started by pupils, including just under 900,000 this academic year. The department estimates that 40% of schools are yet to offer any tutoring sessions on the National Tutoring Programme this academic year.

Within the letter, Secretary of State, Nadhim Zahawi, will write:

“I appeal now, in particular to those schools that have not yet started to offer tutoring, to make sure that you do so as soon as possible this term — do not miss out on an opportunity to help pupils who could benefit now.

“Starting this week, my department will contact those schools yet to offer tutoring support to discuss their plans and offer further support to ensure they can offer tutoring to their pupils this term.

“As part of my desire to ensure greater transparency of the impact of the programme, I am planning to publish data on each school’s tutoring delivery at the end of the year alongside the funding allocations and numbers of pupils eligible for the pupil premium. I will also share this information with Ofsted.”

The Education Secretary’s letter encourages the remaining few schools that have not yet used the National Tutoring Programme to do so, as the academic year nears an end.  Schools yet to offer tuition through the programme will be contacted individually from this week to discuss their plans and offer support.

The department intends to publish data on schools’ tutoring delivery in the 21/22 academic year in the autumn, in addition to the data Government already publishes on national take-up, as well as funding allocations at school level. More details will be made available in due course. 

The data on schools’ involvement will also be shared with Ofsted. The department will work with Ofsted over the coming months on the best use of that data.

Evidence suggests that small group tuition can boost progress by an average of two months in secondary schools and four months in primary schools.

Current funding for the National Tutoring Programme is enough to provide a course of tuition to every single pupil eligible for Pupil Premium, helping meet the parent pledge to help all children in need of support.

Primary pupils have already recovered around two thirds of progress lost due to the pandemic in reading, and around half of progress lost in maths, demonstrating the effectiveness of the Government’s wider, ambitious education recovery programme.

In March, the department announced updates to simplify the programme, including the move to provide all £349 million of tutoring funding for AY22/23 directly to schools. The decision was made following feedback from schools and stakeholders, giving schools the freedom to decide how best to provide tutoring for their children.

The recovery plan, with tutoring at its heart, supports the government’s Levelling Up mission for education, for 90% of primary school children to achieve the expected standard in Key Stage 2 reading, writing and maths by 2030 – and for the national average GCSE grade in both English language and maths increase from 4.5 to 5, to the same timeline. 

Sector Response

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

“Ongoing delays, conflicting guidance, and a shortage of high-quality tutors in some areas has meant many schools have simply not been able to use the national tutoring programme.  Rather than trying to pressurise schools into using it, the government should focus on building a tutoring programme and an infrastructure that is actually fit for purpose.  It is completely wrong for the government to seek to hold schools to account for delivering tutoring, when it has yet to create a programme that properly delivers for schools and pupils.”

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

“Aside from the bizarre decision to send a letter to schools on a Bank Holiday Monday, this announcement smacks of political grandstanding designed to distract from the mess the government has made of the National Tutoring Programme.

“When the Department for Education set out guidance for this year’s National Tutoring Programme it did not mention that it would be publishing some sort of league table on take-up and sharing this with Ofsted. This is effectively a new accountability measure which has been introduced at the eleventh hour in a rather underhand manner.

“The National Tutoring Programme is not straightforward to say the least. It comprises three ‘tutoring routes’ and comes with a complex set of conditions attached. The funding is also only a partialsubsidy with schools expected to meet the rest of the cost of tuition through other budgets.

“This is at a time when schools have been extremely hard-pressed coping with extra costs generated by the pandemic such as supply cover for Covid-related staff absence.

“In addition, one of the routes – the tuition partners scheme which provides funding for subsidised private tuition – has been so beset with problems that it has been belatedly abandoned by the government, but not before a number of schools spent a great deal of time and energy trying to make it work.

“Schools have also been under huge pressure for large parts of this academic year coping with high levels of pupil and staff absence caused by Covid which will inevitably have affected their recovery programmes.

“All of this means that take-up is bound to be variable. The government could and should have provided a recovery programme which was simple and adequately funded instead of the chaotic and lacklustre programme over which it has presided.

“The decision to publish data feels very much like an attempt to shift the focus away from its manifest failings and on to schools.”

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  1. 2030 seems a long step into the future as regards predicting the behaviour of diverse infants/youngsters. Are 90% expected to achieve the same expected standard, or will there be a number of standards, or expected levels, given the popularity of that phrase?