The National Tutoring Programme roll-out: How will it work?

Written by: Robbie Coleman | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

The £350m National Tutoring Programme will begin operation after the October half-term. Two main strands will support schools’ work with pupils whose education has been hit hard by the Covid-19 lockdown. Director Robbie Coleman looks at how it works in practice

Since March, schools have justified their portrayal as the “fourth emergency service”. The efforts of teachers and school leaders to support home learning – from online lessons to hand-delivered worksheets – were inspiring.

But this recognition does not gainsay what teachers know best: children learn less when they are not in school. For many students, the impact of the pandemic has been severe. So as well as saying thank you this academic year, teachers need support like never before.

The National Tutoring Programme (NTP) – devised by five independent charities with support to the tune of £350m from the government – aims to provide one source of help, focused in particular at supporting disadvantaged children who are likely to have had particularly difficult experiences of lockdown.

The NTP will begin delivering tutoring in schools after the October half-term and run for the remainder of the academic year. Schools can participate in the programme in two ways, both of which are designed to bring additional support into schools to help teachers and students.

  • NTP Tuition Partners: Schools will be able to access subsidised tuition from an approved list of external providers. The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) will be leading the delivery of this part of the programme and has been provided with £76 million from the Department for Education to fund activity in the 2020/21 academic year.
  • NTP Academic Mentors: Trained graduates will be employed by schools in the most disadvantaged areas to provide intensive support to their pupils. Teach First will be supporting the recruitment, training and placement of the first cohort of Academic Mentors and their salaries will be funded by the government

Why tutoring?

The impact of tutoring on learning is shown by a wealth of evidence. The EEF’s Teaching and Learning Toolkit identifies tutoring as an approach that can improve learning by, on average, five additional months’ progress over the course of a year (EEF, 2018a).

The two pillars of the NTP build in particular on two successful tutoring projects trialled in English primary and secondary schools, where tutoring was delivered by trained undergraduate students and recent graduates respectively. In both studies, pupils receiving tutoring made significantly more progress than similar peers who did not (EEF, 2019; EEF, 2018b).

Tutoring’s versatility is also a strength, with the potential for tutoring to be offered in-person or online, and by trained volunteers or experienced or specialist teachers. There is strong evidence that both one-to-one and small group tutoring can have strong positive effects, with small group tutoring particularly promising as a cost-effective approach that can increase the number of pupils receiving support.

However, while the evidence on tutoring is clear, to date access to support has been limited. The Sutton Trust (2019) has documented the inequality of access to tutoring between disadvantaged children and their peers, a gap that widened during lockdown. The NTP aims to reverse that pattern, harness tutoring provision in England and directing that resource towards disadvantaged children and schools who need it most.

How does the NTP work?

The NTP is designed to provide flexible, high-quality support to schools. Through NTP Tuition Partners, a range of tutoring models will be available, including face-to-face and online provision, with support provided by charities, universities and private providers.

To be approved as a provider on the scheme, organisations must pass an assessment process led by the EEF. Funding will be based on an organisation’s ability to deliver high-quality curriculum-relevant tutoring to disadvantaged pupils, as well as minimum requirements related to tutor training, safeguarding and evaluation.

To ensure support is affordable to schools, tutoring through the Tuition Partners will be subsidised by 75 per cent in 2020/21. This means that schools buying a block of 15 hours tutoring for a single pupil will receive three free places for other pupils. To pay for the first place, schools could use funding from the Pupil Premium or the £650m Covid catch-up premium (DfE, 2020).

Through NTP Academic Mentors, schools serving particularly disadvantaged communities will be able to directly employ mentors to provide more intensive support to particular students. Mentors might be trained graduates, or qualified teachers who have completed initial teacher training and are looking for their first full-time role in a school.

Above all, the NTP is designed to be a tool for teachers. To have an impact, tutoring must be linked to what is happening in the classroom, with the content of tutoring sessions based on teachers’ judgements about where additional support or practice is needed. By launching the NTP in schools in November, tutoring can be informed by any assessment that took place in the first half-term.

Is tutoring right for every student or school?

Tutoring is not a panacea. The single most powerful factor that will support learning this year is to have students back in the classroom. The pandemic has affected every family differently, and for some students, tutoring will not be the right approach. Like any intervention, teachers will have to make judgements about which pupils will benefit most.

To maximise the impact of tutoring, there is also an up-front cost for teachers. Tutoring works best when tutors and teachers are able to work as a team, with tutors honing-in on the areas of need identified by the teacher. Setting aside time to build relationships and feedback on how sessions are going is likely to pay dividends – just as when working effectively with teaching assistants.

Choosing the right provider will also be an important decision for schools. While all approved tuition partners will have passed a robust screening process, providers might suit different students with different needs. For example, tutoring offered by university PhD students might be well suited to high-attaining disadvantaged students preparing for GCSEs, while younger students struggling with reading may benefit from more targeted support from a tutor who is also an experienced supply teacher.

While by no means the whole solution, tutoring can play a vital role in mitigating the short and longer term effects of the pandemic on learning, and be a powerful tool to help teachers through a challenging year.

Further information & resources

This material is protected by MA Education Limited copyright.
See Terms and Conditions.


Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code
Sign up Headteacher update Bulletin
About Us

Headteacher Update is a magazine, website, podcast and regular ebulletin dedicated to the primary school leadership team. We tackle a wide range of leadership issues, offering best practice, case studies and in-depth information, advice and guidance. Headteacher Update magazine is distributed free to approximately 20,000 primary school headteachers.

Learn more about Headteacher update


Register to receive regular updates on primary education news delivered free to your inbox.