Zahawi writes to all schools to urge take-up of tutoring programme

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Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi is to write to schools to urge them to use the Government’s flagship National Tutoring Programme.

Parents will also be able to access data on how their child’s school is using the programme (NTP), while the Department for Education has said it will share data on how schools are using the scheme with Ofsted.

The tutoring programme has previously been criticised as “dysfunctional”, with schools and tuition providers reporting problems with Randstad’s online portal – a Dutch human resources firm awarded £25.4 million to run the tuition partners scheme in May 2021.

Just over 100,000 tuition courses were started through the Randstad route during the 2021/22 academic year.

Overall, more than a million tuition courses have been started, but most of these were through the schools-led tuition route, where schools were awarded funding to spend on tuition directly.

In March, Randstad lost the contract for next year, with the Department for Education announcing that schools would receive direct funds for tutoring instead to “simplify” the programme.

Nadhim Zahawi
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi is contacting schools to try and boost the National Tutoring Programme (PA)

On Monday, the DfE said it will publish the data of each school’s involvement with the programme in the autumn, and this will be shared with schools inspectorate Ofsted.

Many schools are still not using the scheme, intended to be part of the Government’s Covid recovery catch-up plans.

The DfE said it estimates that 40% of schools are yet to offer any tutoring sessions through the NTP during this academic year.

The Government has said the tutoring will help reach a target of 90% of pupils leaving primary school to meet expected literacy and numeracy targets by 2030, as set out in the Levelling Up paper.

A “parent pledge” announced in the Schools White Paper also assured parents that any child falling behind in English and maths will be given targeted support.

Within a letter to schools, published on Monday, Mr Zahawi will write: “I appeal now, in particular to those schools that have not yet started to offer tutoring, to make sure that you do so as soon as possible this term – do not miss out on an opportunity to help pupils who could benefit now.

“Starting this week, my department will contact those schools yet to offer tutoring support to discuss their plans and offer further support to ensure they can offer tutoring to their pupils this term.

“As part of my desire to ensure greater transparency of the impact of the programme, I am planning to publish data on each school’s tutoring delivery at the end of the year alongside the funding allocations and numbers of pupils eligible for the pupil premium. I will also share this information with Ofsted.”

The DfE said “Schools yet to offer tuition through the programme will be contacted individually from this week to discuss their plans and offer support.”

School pupils
The National Tutoring Programme is part of the Government’s Covid recovery catch-up plans (PA)

It added it will be “working with Ofsted over the coming months on the best use” of data gathered from schools about their use of the NTP.

A total of £349 million has been allocated for the NTP for 2022/23.

Headteachers said the letter to schools “smacks of political grandstanding”.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Aside from the bizarre decision to send a letter to schools on a bank holiday Monday, this announcement smacks of political grandstanding designed to distract from the mess the Government has made of the National Tutoring Programme.”

He added that when the DfE had set out guidance for the NTP this year, it had not mentioned it would be publishing “some sort of league table on take-up and sharing this with Ofsted”, adding this is “effectively a new accountability measure”.

He added: “The National Tutoring Programme is not straightforward to say the least. It comprises three ‘tutoring routes’ and comes with a complex set of conditions attached. The funding is also only a partial subsidy, with schools expected to meet the rest of the cost of tuition through other budgets.”

The tuition partners scheme in particular has been “so beset with problems that it has been belatedly abandoned by the Government”, he said.

Mr Barton said “the decision to publish data feels very much like an attempt to shift the focus away” from Government failings on to schools.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “Ongoing delays, conflicting guidance, and a shortage of high-quality tutors in some areas has meant many schools have simply not been able to use the national tutoring programme.

“Rather than trying to pressurise schools into using it, the Government should focus on building a tutoring programme and an infrastructure that is actually fit for purpose. It is completely wrong for the Government to seek to hold schools to account for delivering tutoring, when it has yet to create a programme that properly delivers for schools and pupils.”

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