A £350 million flagship programme offering tuition to help pupils catch up may now fall behind schedule as providers have been told delivery milestones can be “re-forecast”.
Plans to provide additional funding to the National Tutoring Programme (NTP) scheme are also being reviewed as a result of school closures.
Tuition providers already signed up to the scheme are now rapidly going through safeguarding and due diligence checks to ensure they can switch their offer online for pupils to access at home.
The NTP now expects most tutoring this term to take place either at a student’s home or at school for those still attending.
But providers have been told they can now work with the NTP to “re-forecast milestone targets” so they don’t feel “pressured by pre-set targets”.
An email sent on Monday, before the prime minster’s lockdown announcement, said that tuition sessions could be “loaded more heavily towards later in the year (eg increase the number of hours per week) and delivery targets can be adjusted to account for this”.
A round of additional funding for providers to deliver tuition to more pupils was due to launch this Friday, according to the email.
But the NTP is reviewing the timeline as it needs to “consider the impact that the closures might have on the overall delivery of the NTP”. It said the current uncertainty made it unable to make a firm decision “right now”.
Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that “as with much else” the NTP was “clearly going to face added complications in terms of delivery following the decision to restrict opening in schools”.
“We have always said that this was a particularly complicated way of delivering catch-up support … it would have been far simpler to have provided the money direct to schools.”
Approved tuition partners were expected to have contingency plans in place if face-to-face tutoring was disrupted.
The NTP website reads: “This could include moving tuition online (where organisations already have online systems up and running) or pausing tuition until delivery becomes feasible again and changing the onward pattern of delivery.”
The NTP said its team would make sure planned tuition went ahead, but any postponed sessions could be rearranged or moved online.
“These choices are ones for each individual school to make. Schools and tuition partners will continue to work closely and collaborate to support additional learning for the children that need it most,” said a spokesperson.
The NTP was working with all tuition partners to make sure it could “help those disadvantaged pupils that we set out to reach when we launched two months ago”.
The NTP has enrolled 90,000 students in two months, just over a third of the 250,000 promised catch-up under the programme. It has a conversion rate – where schools who expressed an interest in signing a contract with the provider – of 87 per cent.
Unions are now calling for more catch-up funding following school closures.
Barton said the “catch-up funding provided by the government was in respect of lost learning in the first lockdown. Since then we have had a highly disrupted autumn term and now another lockdown.
“This is very likely to have led to further learning loss and the government will need to provide more funding for catch-up support to schools and colleges over the coming months.”
In guidance published last week, the DfE said it recognised it might be “challenging” for schools to deliver effective catch-up support.
Schools can continue to offer tuition, and the academic mentor programme will also continue online.
“Schools should also use this period to strategically plan the catch-up support required for their pupils in the next half-term.”