DfE signals intent for National Tutoring Programme to continue beyond this year

The government has signalled its intent to extend the flagship National Tutoring Programme beyond this year – and has asked for the sector’s view on how it can be rolled out to recruit more tutors.

It comes as schools were able to finally start applying for tutoring this week after the 32 providers of subsidised tuition were announced on Monday.

But, as Schools Week revealed last month, nearly half of the promised £350 million for the NTP remains unallocated, with plans being hatched to use the cash to fund the programme across future years.

Now, a pre-procurement notice has been issued by the Department for Education for a “national supplier or a consortium of suppliers” to lead the delivery of the next stage from Autumn 2021.

It reads that the DfE “recognises” the supplier will need to “build their capacity and partnerships” during the programme.

So they are proposing “flexibility” for a national supplier to add new tutoring partners once they are appointed.

But they say the advertised value of the notice is subject to a spending review confirmation and approval of the next phase of the £350m programme.

It also acknowledges the note is not a “binding statement of intent” and that the department reserves the right to “not enter a formal procurement process and not award contract(s)”.

The notice adds that DfE is assessing the duration of the next stage of the NTP programme “which will build on the first phase”.

It is “seeking information and advice on delivery options for the next stage of the NTP” and says it may be a multi-year programme.

“Successful supplier/s will be required to work within a set of standards, that are being designed for year 1 provision and whose development will be part of the mobilisation of the new Phase 2 national supplier/s.”

The catch-up programme has been designed and developed by five charities – the Education Endowment Foundation, Sutton Trust, Impetus, Nesta and Teach First – working with DfE.

The EFF is leading the delivery of the £76million NTP Tuition Partners scheme, with the 32 providers announced this week. Teach First is delivering the mentors programme.

When asked about whether they will be bid for the contract, a spokesperson for the EEF said it is “keen to ensure the NTP has a positive legacy in the system” and is currently considering “how it can best support this”.

“The EEF believes that the National Tutoring Programme has the potential to make a long-term contribution to the attainment gap. We are pleased the government is looking into delivery options beyond this academic year.”

Any decision on future funding for the NTP hinges on this month’s spending review. But prime minister Boris Johnson suggested today he wanted tutoring to have a future role.

During prime minster’s questions, Conservative MP Sajid Javid said it would be the most disadvantaged hit hardest if schools close, asking for an “assurance we will do whatever it takes to make up for lost ground and never again contemplate closing our schools”.

Boris Johnson said it was of “paramount importance” to keep schools open, adding he wants to see the “innovative idea” of one-on-one tutoring for pupils to carry on “as we come out of this pandemic”.

He said it has the potential to make a “huge difference to the confidence of children and for their academic attainment”.

The government is yet to publish any new guidance for how schools should operate during the national lockdown, which comes into force at 00.01am tomorrow (Thursday).

The DfE say the purpose of the notice is to notify the market that they are investigating options and seeking market input to help inform the delivery options for the next stage of the NTP.

But that further information on programmes will be set out after the spending review.