Nick Clegg plays catch-up on tuition in conference speech

Our government is learning some of the lessons from Finland's successful education system and bringing in classes for pupils who fall behind


The coalition's social mobility strategy took another turn today with Nick Clegg's trailed announcement that a further £50 million will be spent on catch-up tuition for children who have not reached level four in their Key Stage Two exams at the end of primary school.

This focus on pupils who need to ‘catch-up’ is already adopted by many successful schools in England. These schools explicitly target pupils requiring rapid catch-up tuition in their first year at secondary school by placing them in small groups with special teaching-techniques focused on literacy and numeracy until they reach the average level of performance for their age group.

The attention given to children who are identified as having ‘learning needs’ is also a key feature of Finland’s success in international education rankings, and it is premised on the idea that individual pupils who are struggling need to be identified early and given appropriate support to improve.

This is done by supplementing their mainstream schooling with part-time small group tuition, provided by a special education teacher. The teachers are highly trained and give pupils an individual learning plan to help them reach the required level. The stigma of attending these classes is reduced by the sheer volume of students taking part – at least one-third of pupils are enrolled at any one time, and nearly half of pupils receive some form of catch-up tuition over the course of their school career. As a result of this approach, inequalities of attainment within Finnish schools are lower than in most OECD countries.

So this is a very welcome move. But it also highlights two mistakes made early on by the coalition government.

First, it at least partially reverses the decision to scrap Labour's commitment to specialist one-to-one tuition for all children who have fallen behind by the time they reach secondary school, which was due to be rolled out in 2011. And it highlights the folly of cutting ring-fenced funding for the successful Every Child a Reader and Every Child Counts programmes which funded specialist teachers to provide intensive support to pupils at Key Stage 1.

These programmes were cut despite glowing evaluations as to their success: at the end of Year 1, the reading recovery programmes supported by Every Child a Reader increased the numbers of children reaching level 1 or above in their reading by 26 percentage points. It also markedly increased children's enjoyment of reading, with many more taking books home from school.

Second, the fact that the Government is rolling out extra funding for catch up highlights the fact that schools are not spending the new pupil premium money on such proven programmes targeted at those who have fallen behind. The Institute for Public Policy Research made this case as far back as 2010 and Ofsted has now confirmed that the money is not being well used by schools.  We need this money to be focused on providing focused catch up in numeracy and literacy to all children who need it, rather than simply plugging holes in school budgets. The Government should have provided children with a catch up entitlement so that schools are focusing the extra money on the children for whom it is intended.

A recent IPPR report argued that it is perfectly possibly to reduce educational inequalities in England if we ensure that resource is focused on quality programmes that we know work. This means doing more than tackling failing schools, although that is important: if all pupils attended an outstanding school then the gap at GCSE between richer and poorer children would fall by just 20 percent. This is because even when poorer children are in good schools they still lag behind their better off class mates. To tackle this requires targeted interventions aimed specifically at those children. We estimate that the most effective interventions in primary and secondary schools, such as small group tuition and peer tutoring, could halve the gap between the richest and poorest students if they were implemented effectively. If supplemented by quality early years provision we could do even better.

Rick Muir is Associate Director at IPPR. IPPR’s recent report - A Long Division. Closing the attainment gap in England’s secondary schools - is available here.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next

General Election 2015: The SNP and an SMC (Salmond-Murdoch Conspiracy)

Matthew Norman
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station  

General Election 2015: Despite all the seeming cynicism, our political system works

Ian Birrell
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living