Government urged to renew funding for flagship catch-up tutoring programme

Failing to embed tutoring as a core part of the future education system would be a ‘national travesty’, a social mobility expert has warned.

Eleanor Busby
Wednesday 17 January 2024 00:01 GMT
File photo dated 12/09/18 of a teacher and students in a classroom. Funding for the National Tutoring Programme is expected to end this academic year (Ben Birchall/PA)
File photo dated 12/09/18 of a teacher and students in a classroom. Funding for the National Tutoring Programme is expected to end this academic year (Ben Birchall/PA)

The Government should renew funding for its flagship tutoring programme to help children who have fallen behind, education leaders have urged.

Failing to embed tutoring as a core part of the future education system would be a “national travesty”, a social mobility expert has suggested.

Funding for the National Tutoring Programme (NTP) – which aims to help pupils in England recover learning missed because of Covid-19 disruption – is expected to end this academic year.

An analysis by consultancy Public First, which looks at the NTP in the academic years 2021/22 and 2022/23, predicts the scheme will produce substantial economic returns.

Pupils who achieved better grades after they received the tutoring in these two years are estimated to boost the economy by more than £4 billion thanks to their higher lifetime earnings potential, according to the report.

It will be a national travesty if we fail to embed tutoring as a core strand of our future education system

Lee Elliot Major, professor of social mobility

A group of educationalists has called on the Government to continue to invest in the NTP next year and beyond.

Alun Francis, chair of the Social Mobility Commission (SMC), said: “The findings of this report into the economic impact of tutoring, and the benefits it brings to young people in terms of achievement and confidence, are very encouraging.

“It suggests that, if targeted in the right way, tutoring can make a significant contribution to equalising opportunity and improving outcomes.

“We need long-term, consistent approaches built on interventions which have a strong evidence base and on this basis would urge the Government to maintain its commitment to funding this provision.”

Lee Elliot Major, professor of social mobility at the University of Exeter said: “This report confirms that high-quality tutoring is one of the most cost-effective approaches we have at our disposal in levelling the education playing field.

“It will be a national travesty if we fail to embed tutoring as a core strand of our future education system.”

Now is really not the time to pull the plug on this hugely valuable support, especially when the attainment gap is at its widest since 2012

Susannah Hardyman, Action Tutoring

Dame Rachel de Souza, the Children’s Commissioner for England, said: “Additional tutoring at school is a great way for children and young people, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, to get the help they need to progress in lessons. It has academic as well as many other benefits for children’s wellbeing.

“This research also outlines the economic returns of tutoring which makes it very clear that we must secure the future of tutoring and guarantee a much-needed service for the nation’s children.”

Under the NTP scheme, funding is provided directly to schools so they can source their own tutors either externally or through their own staff as part of the school-led tutoring route.

Schools can also use subsidised funding to access tuition from an approved list of organisations, known as tuition partners, or they can use it to hire full-time, in-house academic mentors.

The Public First study, using data from 2021/22 and 2022/23, estimates that the scheme will lead to, or has already led to, a total of 390,000 grade improvements in English and Maths.

The additional discounted lifetime earnings resulting from tuition provided in 2021/22 and 2022/23 is estimated at £4.34 billion, according to the report.

Susannah Hardyman, chief executive of Action Tutoring, said: “With the National Tutoring Programme set to end in mid-2024, today’s findings show now is really not the time to pull the plug on this hugely valuable support, especially when the attainment gap is at its widest since 2012.

“The spring Budget would be the perfect opportunity for the government to commit to extending tutoring and secure a brighter future for pupils and the economy.”

The Department for Education (DfE) subsidised 75% of the costs schools incurred for delivering the scheme in 2021/22, and this reduced to 60% in 2022/23 and 50% this academic year.

The DfE has previously said the 2023/24 academic year is the fourth and final year of the NTP.

A spokeswoman for the DFE said: “As this report acknowledges, we know the positive impact that tutoring can have as we recover from the impact of the pandemic.

“That is why we made over £1 billion available for the National Tutoring Programme, which has to date seen almost five million courses started to help pupils most in need of extra support.

“We will continue to support schools to deliver tutoring into the future, including through the pupil premium which is rising to almost £2.9 billion this year.”

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