Up to one in five schools face having their catch-up cash clawed back this year because they did not provide details of how it was spent.
Schools had until last month to submit their mandatory “year-end statement” on how they spent their National Tutoring Programme (NTP) grant in 2022-23, even if they didn’t use the money.
If the form is not submitted, the Education and Skills Funding Agency recovers all of a school’s allocation.
About 4,200 schools (20 per cent) had not completed the form at the closing date on October 12, the DfE said in response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.
Schools have been given a final chance to submit the form this month, so that figure may change.
But the number is still significantly above the 850 who had not completed the document by October 21 last year for 2021-22.
Schools had to contribute 40 per cent of catch-up costs last year to access their funding.
Julia Harnden, a funding specialist at the school leaders’ union ASCL, said it suggested “the strings attached” to the NTP “deterred”some schools from accessing the grant.
“The need to supplement the grant with increasing amounts from school budgets and complete a burdensome year-end statement is clearly having an impact on the scheme’s viability.
“The future of the NTP lies in schools being given the funding and flexibility to make tutoring work in their setting, not in ever-decreasing amounts of funding that schools must jump through hoops to access and that will be clawed back if they put a toe out of line.”
‘Should ring alarm bells’
School leaders originally had until September 29 to fill in the form, but this was extended by two weeks after technical issues.
The DfE said it had “carried out a range of activities” to support schools to complete the statement, including written guidance, webinars and email and telephone calls.
It was “continuing the activity to increase responses and verify information” provided by schools.
Schools were emailed on November 6 detailing the amount DfE would recover.
The FOI showed that 17,200 schools (80 per cent) had completed the statement last month.
DfE data shows that as of May, 76 per cent of schools had used the NTP last year. Updated figures are due next month.
In 2021-22, 12.6 per cent of schools did not use the NTP at all.
Ministers also clawed back £114 million of unspent cash from nearly half of the country’s schools who did not use all their catch-up allocation that year.
The catch-up subsidy dropped to 50 per cent this year and, as it stands, the flagship scheme will end in August. Any schools wanting to continue tutoring will have to pay for all of it.
Nick Brook, the chair of the DfE strategic tutoring advisory group, said the volume of tutoring delivered was “highly sensitive to the level of subsidy provided”.
“This will come as little surprise to many but should ring alarm bells in the DfE as to the likely consequence of removing tutoring subsidy altogether next year.”
Labour has signalled it will look into “effective [tutoring] interventions”, but that money could be tight if it wins the next election.
Labour ‘interested’ in undergraduate tutoring
Bridget Phillipson, the shadow education secretary, told an event on Tuesday she was “really interested” in the University of Exeter’s work using undergraduates as tutors.
“I think [it] is showing some initial promise in terms of improved outcomes, but also how that might then be a route to support young people into thinking that teaching is a really brilliant place to be.
“It’s about making the case in terms of the evidence for why interventions are effective.
“If we win the election there will not be lots of money kicking around. But looking at places where you can make the biggest difference with often quite limited resources is a really important starting point.”
A DfE spokesperson said all eligible schools had several opportunities to submit their year-end statement.
“Any that missed the initial window at the start of term can submit at the end of this month, by following the instructions we have provided.”