More than half of schools in England can now access the government’s academic mentors scheme after the eligibility criteria was widened.
The Department for Education has told leaders that following a review of the National Tutoring Programme, it was extending eligibility for the academic mentors arm to include all schools where more than 30 per cent of pupils are eligible for the pupil premium, regardless of where they are located.
Schools were previously only eligible for support through the academic mentors arm of the programme if they had already accessed the scheme last year, or were in 118 districts or opportunity areas listed by the government.
According to the DfE, the change increases the scope of schools eligible for this resource “to 53 per cent of all schools in England”. It is not known what percentage of schools were eligible under the previous criteria.
DfE recovery boss questions school spending priorities
It comes after the government official in charge of education recovery policy urged schools struggling to afford their share of the cost of tutoring to “think about” what else they are spending their money on.
Graham Archer, director of education recovery at the DfE, said schools were getting a “really good deal” from the programme, and said tutoring was “one of the best-evidenced ways of working with children”.
The government pays 70 per cent of the cost of tutoring through the tuition partners arm of the scheme. As Schools Week revealed earlier this year, the subsidy is due to taper off, to 50 per cent next year, to just 10 per cent the year after.
Funding from the government’s school-led tutoring grant, which allows schools to directly employ their own tutors, is also due to taper off, with the subsidy reducing from 75 per cent this year to 60 per cent in 2022-23 and 25 per cent in 2023-24.
Challenged by a delegate who said some schools were struggling to afford even the current contributions, Archer defended the funding set-up.
“I have to say I think it’s a really good deal. Of course I can understand schools would have preferred 100 per cent, but tutoring is one of the best-evidenced ways of working with children, both to enable them to catch up and to close some of the attainment gaps,” he said.
Randstad’s appointment defended
Archer also defended the appointment of Randstad, a dutch outsourcing firm, to run the NTP from this year.
He said the government had run a “competitive procurement, Randstad put in the best bid, and we’re working with them to deliver that through their own officers and those of a lot of the tutoring partners who operated last year”.
“They were the best bidder, they rightly got the contract, and we’re working with them to deliver for all schools across the country.”
Firm handed £6m more to train school-led tutors
Randstad was also last week handed over £6 million more funding to provide training for tutors recruited under the school-led tutoring programme.
The training scheme, being delivered “in partnership” with the Education Development Trust, was launched in September, but the firm’s contract has only recently been updated, with an additional £6,693,963 for the training element.
It means Randstad’s total contract value has increased from £25.6 milion to £32 million.