‘Blame game’ as Zahawi moves to publish tutoring take-up

The government will name and shame schools over tutoring use and report data to Ofsted

The government will name and shame schools over tutoring use and report data to Ofsted

Schools that shunned the government’s flagship tutoring scheme because it was too restrictive and costly fear getting the blame for the failing programme.

The government will publish the amount of tutoring that schools have done through the national tutoring programme (NTP) in the autumn term, alongside their funding allocation and the number of eligible pupil premium children.

The data will be shared with Ofsted and made public to boost take-up by naming and shaming schools. Government data suggests two in five schools have not used the scheme.

Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi said this would provide “greater transparency”. But heads say the data is misleading as many schools are doing tutoring – just outside of the flagship scheme.

Meanwhile, unions have demanded an urgent meeting with Zahawi after accusing him of breaking the government’s own wellbeing and workload commitments with the plans.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said it “feels very much like an attempt to shift the focus away from its manifest failings and on to schools”.

Schools have to find 25% of tutoring cash

Under the school-led tutoring route, schools get a ring-fenced grant to cover 75 per cent of the cost of tutoring for three-quarters of pupil-premium children.

Robina Maher, headteacher at St Mary’s Primary School in Hammersmith, west London, said: “I am working hard to balance my budget, so that top-up is a lot of money to come up with.”

In March, just under 30 per cent of schools in the borough of Hammersmith and Fulham had run tutoring under the NTP – the lowest in the country, and in contrast to 60 per cent across England.

Schools are expected to use their pupil premium or the £302 million recovery cash to plug the gap. They can also use their own teachers or external tutors, but unqualified teachers have to undertake an 11-hour tutor training course.

How the cash is spent is recorded in the school census. Any unspent funds will be clawed back at the end of August.

Maher said some schools in the area, like many across London, had dwindling pupil numbers and tight budgets.

She has run tuition but used teachers in her own school. Rather than extra pay, they get time off in lieu, as it is “far more effective”.

Tutoring data ‘will be misleading’

“The figures will be misleading as it doesn’t mean children aren’t receiving tutoring,” Maher added. “When you put schools up against each other, it’s not really like for like, as school contexts vary.”

Blackpool has 81.3 per cent of schools using the programme. As they already had a tutoring programme in place before the NTP, it meant they could “very quickly agree a town-wide approach to staff pay and allocation of pupils”.

But Frank Norris, independent chair of the city’s education improvement board, said tutor supply had “petered out completely” throughout the year.

James Turner, Sutton Trust chief executive, said schools “shouldn’t be penalised for gaps in the tutoring market, which is still fledgling”.

Devon has the ninth lowest NTP take-up in England, at 46.8 per cent. Paul Gosling, headteacher at Exeter Road primary school in Exmouth, said it is harder for remote schools to access tutors and arrange transport after-school.

“I already employ a staff member for one-to-one tuition, so I’m using the 25 per cent to pay for them,” Gosling said.

Special schools risk being bottom of table

Meanwhile Susan Douglas, chief executive of Eden Academy Trust, said special schools will be bottom of the table as they do not have the time to release therapists and support staff to do tutor training while dealing with never-ending Covid absences.

The government plans to contact schools that are yet to offer tutoring. However, this will only be among the 52 per cent that responded to the education settings form.

Chris Zarraga, director of Schools North East, said tutor league tables are a “pointless exercise” designed to “increase pressure on schools to utilise something that they had decided, for good operational reasons, wasn’t suitable for their settings”.

Leaders’ unions said they were “appalled” by the announcement, communicated to heads on bank holiday Monday. It was a “direct contravention” of the DfE’s own staff wellbeing charter to only publish alerts during working hours, the unions said.

Zahawi also stands accused of breaking his department’s own pledge that new policies on accountability should be brought in at the beginning of the school year, with a year’s notice.

In his letter to schools, Zahawi urged, “Do not miss out on an opportunity to help pupils who could benefit now”.

DfE said the publication is not “the introduction of a new accountability measure for schools”.

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