Covid recovery: Schools support use of tuition, but not via the NTP

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

School leaders are shunning the government’s flagship National Tutoring Programme (NTP) in favour of organising and delivering tutoring themselves as part of Covid recovery efforts.

Research shows that while 70 per cent of school leaders believe that one-to-one and small group tuition should be a priority as part of recovery work with pupils, only three per cent think this should be delivered via the NTP.

The “bureaucracy” surrounding the government’s high-profile initiative is blamed for the lack of engagement. School leaders have also previously raised concerns about the quality of tutors being offered via the NTP and many believe that the NTP’s funding should be going directly to schools.

So far, the NTP has cost tax-payers £350m with a further £83m being announced earlier this year as well as an additional £218 allocated as part of the Department for Education’s ridiculed Education Recovery Plan.

The NTP has been put at the heart of the DfE’s recovery plan because one-to-one and small-group tuition is considered to be one of the most effective methods of closing attainment gaps. Evidence from the Education Endowment Foundation shows it can boost pupil progress by up to five months across an academic year (EEF, 2018).

However, back in November, a number of schools told SecEd that they were not interested in the NTP, with particular concerns about the quality and experience of some of the tutors being put forward.

There is a feeling among school leaders that they would be able to deliver more targeted and effective provision if they were given the funds directly.

There is discomfort, too, at the potential profits being made by some of the NTP providers. A total of 21 of the 32 approved NTP tutoring organisations are for-profit companies and there have been reports of some charging as much as £75-£80 an hour (Ferguson, 2021).

The NTP has said previously that the average total price of tutoring across all 32 providers is £19 per-hour, per-pupil.

Under the scheme, schools can buy one 15-hour block of tutoring per-pupil, paying 25 per cent of the tutoring bill, with the DfE paying 75 per cent.

The research this week has been published by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and sought to identify where school leaders thought the government should be prioritising additional funding for education recovery. Based on responses from 728 school leaders in England, the top three priorities were:

  • One-to-one or small-group tutoring run by schools themselves (70 per cent).
  • Better support for pupil mental health and wellbeing (63 per cent).
  • Increased Pupil Premium allocations (42 per cent).

The two lowest priorities identified by the respondents were:

  • The NTP (three per cent).
  • Extending the school day for additional learning (two per cent).

Commenting on the results, general secretary of the NAHT, Paul Whiteman said: “These results reflect what we have been hearing from our members directly – that rather than dictating how education recovery happens, the government needs to give schools the flexible funding and resources to get on with the job in the way they know works best.

“The NTP is a great idea in principle and could have a really positive impact, but the current bureaucracy surrounding it, and the difficulties schools are facing accessing tutors, means that it is starting to feel like yet another hoop to jump through and a pressure rather than a help. It also doesn’t help that schools still don’t even know what their allocations will be for next year, making planning incredibly difficult.

“One-to-one and small group tutoring is a measure that education professionals know works. They just need the flexibility – and funding and resources – to organise it themselves.

“Schools know what they need to do – what they need from the government is support. They don’t need to be told how to do the job, they just need the government to give them the resources and stand back.”

  • EEF: One-to-one tuition, Teaching and Learning Toolkit, last updated August 2018: http://bit.ly/2phRQJO
  • Ferguson: England’s ‘catch-up’ tutors are being short-changed by private employers, The Observer, February 2021: https://bit.ly/3iV99tG


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