£114m tutoring cash clawed back from half of schools

Tutoring league tables show 1 in 4 schools used less than 50% of their catch-up cash, which will now be handed back to Treasury

Tutoring league tables show 1 in 4 schools used less than 50% of their catch-up cash, which will now be handed back to Treasury

The DfE blocked a MAT's bid to take shares in an outsourcing company.

Ministers have clawed back £114 million of unspent tutoring cash – over a third of the amount handed out last year – with nearly half of the country’s schools not using all their catch-up allocation.

Controversial leagues tables showing each schools’ National Tutoring Programme uptake last academic year were published this morning, despite pushback from unions who said figures show how cash-strapped schools are, rather than their appetite for tutoring.

The data reveals that 10,700 out of about 21,000 eligible schools did not spend all of their school-led catch-up allocation.

The cash only subsidises the costs of tuition, with schools last year expected to contribute 25 per cent.

Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of school leaders' union NAHT, will step down from the role in March

Schools Week analysis of the league table data found the amount of unspent cash for school-led tutoring totals £114 million – 36 per cent of the original £314 million allocated to schools in 2021-22.

The recovered cash will now be returned to the Treasury, government said.

Schools Week first revealed the scale of clawback was likely to be more than £100 million in November last year.

‘Money is lost to education’

Nick Brook, chair of the DfE’s strategic tutoring advisory group, said the money is “now lost to education”.

Instead, he said unspent funding should be “rolled-forward, to either allow higher subsidy levels in future years or to extend the volume of tutoring taking place in those schools that are making good use of it”.

This year, schools have to fund 40 per cent of costs themselves, rising to 75 per cent from September.

“This year is tough in schools, and next year is likely to be tougher still, financially,” Brook said. “A commitment from the Treasury, that in 2023 tutoring underspend will be reinvested in education recovery and young people, would be hugely welcome.”

The figures show that one in eight schools (2,645) did not use any of the three NTP tutoring routes – school-led, tuition partners and academic mentors – last year, when the scheme was run by the since-axed HR firm Randstad.

Over a quarter of schools used less than 50 per cent of their school-led tutoring funding.

Schools in Birmingham only spent £7 million out of a £12 million allocation – the largest underspend by council area.

‘Priorities in the wrong place’

But heads have previously told Schools Week how they had struggled to afford the tutoring top-up costs and find tutors locally.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of ASCL school leaders’ union, said the league tables “tells us little more than what schools have been able to afford”.

“It certainly should not be used as major indicator of a school’s appetite to make use of the tutoring scheme.

“Right from the start, the NTP has been a textbook lesson in how to take a good idea and undermine it through bureaucracy and inflexibility.

“The publication of these statistics is just the latest example and suggests the DfE’s priorities are in completely the wrong place.”

Data reveals how 65.7 per cent of schools had used the NTP between September and January this academic year, up from 43.7 per cent in October.

DfE estimates that by January, 3.3 million tutoring courses had started since the programme’s launch in November 2020. Ministers have set a target to deliver 6 million courses by August 2024 – when the four-year programme ends.

Schools had to complete a form detailing how much of their allocation was spent last year.

But some headteachers say they were told they would have cash clawed back, despite claiming to have used all their tutoring cash.

A DfE spokesperson said: “The publication of school level data gives parents valuable information about how schools are delivering tutoring. It is not intended as an accountability measure for schools.”

The Treasury was approached for comment.

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