Labour says catch-up scheme ‘failing’ as tuition reaches only 1% of pupils in England

Shadow education secretary slams ‘woefully low reach’ of scheme

Zoe Tidman
Friday 30 April 2021 10:07 BST
<p>The government has set up a tutoring scheme as part of catch-up plans for pupils </p>

The government has set up a tutoring scheme as part of catch-up plans for pupils

A government catch-up tutoring scheme is “failing to deliver on promises,” Labour says as data shows it has provided tuition to around one per cent of England’s pupils.

The schools minister said on Thursday 110,000 students have started to receive tutoring under the programme, which is designed to help bridge gaps in children’s learning who have been most affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The latest available figures from January last year puts England’s school population at 8.89 million.

Labour said this suggests 1.2 per cent of country’s pupils have received tutoring through the National Tutoring Programme to date - months after it was launched.

Nick Gibb, the schools minister, said 44 per cent of those receiving tuition were eligible for pupil premium, a grant for disadvantaged pupils, including those on free school meals or who have been in the past six years, as well as pupils in care.

Labour said this was equivalent to 48,400 pupils - or 2.4 per cent of the total number eligible for pupil premium in the country.

Kate Green, the shadow education secretary, said the “woefully low reach” of the National Tutoring Programme showed the government was “failing to deliver on its promises for children and families”.

Ms Green, the shadow education secretary, said: “We have seen failure, upon failure from this Conservative government which has treated children as an afterthought throughout the pandemic and now has no plan to deliver a strong recovery.

The government has said the National Tutoring Programme is “designed to reach the most disadvantaged pupils in England” and aims to help children hardest-hit by the coronavirus pandemic to catch-up on lost learning. 

One part of it allows schools to access heavily subsidised tuition from a list of partners.

On Thursday, Mr Gibb was asked about under half of those receiving tuition being eligible for pupil premium, despite disadvantaged pupils being targeted in the scheme.

He told the education select committee the figure was still higher than the national picture, with 27 per cent of pupils in England receiving the grant for disadvantaged pupils.

“We want to make sure that these catch-up programs are targeted on those pupils who are in the most need - and that will be some disadvantaged children,” he said.

“It will also be pupils who have not coped with remote education, or who have mental health issues, or who have special educational needs, but are not necessarily eligible for the pupil premium.”

Last month, the public spending watchdog said the scheme may not be reaching the poorest children, as fewer than half the children who had started to receive tuition by February were eligible for pupil premium.

The National Audit Office (NAO) found 44 per cent of the children who had received tuition at the time were eligible for the grants, which raised “questions over the extent to which the scheme will reach the most disadvantaged children”.

As well as providing pupils with tuition, the National Tutoring Programme allows schools inthe most disadvantaged areas to employ academic mentors to give intensive catch-up support.

The government said 1,000 academic mentors have been placed in some of the most disadvantaged schools to date.

A Department for Education spokesperson said the National Tutoring Programme is “providing high quality, targeted support for the children who need it most”.

They added: “The programme forms part of £1.7bn being invested in ambitious catch-up activity, and we are working with parents, teachers and schools to develop a long-term plan to make sure all pupils recover from the impact of the pandemic as quickly and comprehensively as possible.”

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