Failure to focus on poorer pupils will widen gap, say tutoring providers

Letter urges education secretary to ensure the scheme’s 'core original focus' on disadvantaged children is not lost

Letter urges education secretary to ensure the scheme’s 'core original focus' on disadvantaged children is not lost


The National Tutoring Programme’s failure to focus on poorer children will widen the attainment gap, the government’s own tuition providers have warned.

Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi told the Sunday Express he was “determined” that tutoring “has to be available for everyone”.

But seven providers under the NTP have written to him urging him to ensure the scheme’s “core original focus” on disadvantaged children is not lost.

Schools Week revealed in March that providers no longer had to ensure their catch-up reaches at least two-thirds of poorer pupils.

The government said its overall pupil premium target remains in place, but tutoring organisations had “operational flexibility”.


However it is unclear what will happen next year, leaving the six charities and one social enterprise tutors with “serious concerns”.

If the scheme “does not reach those for whom it was originally attended, and if the interventions provided are not impactful, it could actually stand to widen the attainment gap, which would surely be a travesty”, they wrote.

The signatories include Action Tutoring, Tutor Trust, TalentEd and CoachBright Charitable Trust. One of the NTP’s founding charities Impetus also signed the letter along with the Fair Education Alliance.

Randstad tutoring routes well behind targets

The intervention comes as new figures show the two tutor routes run by Randstad have delivered just a third of their targets – with only four months until the end of the contract.

The HR firm will be stripped of its contract after slow take-up. Next year’s contract is out for tender.

Just under 1.2 million tutor courses have been started since September. It means the government is still 40 per cent off its target of two million courses by the end of August.

It is now allowing tutoring over the summer in a bid to hit its target but would have to secure 47,215 starts a week to reach it. It currently provides an average of 34,209 starts a week.

The letter calls for a government campaign to “win the hearts and minds of the teaching profession back to tutoring” after the programme’s brand was “damaged” by the “complexity” this year.

It also calls for “ambitious” pupil premium targets and for the DfE to “publicly track” the NTP’s impact on the attainment gap to “build schools’ confidence” in the programme.

Susannah Hardyman, Action Tutoring founder and CEO, said it would be a “devastating loss” not to make a “game-changing difference to the outcomes for pupils facing disadvantage”.

The organisations say they support “well above” the original target of reaching 65 per cent of poorer pupils but claim that “high-quality” tuition is “unavailable in many parts of the country”.

Take-up as low as 6.5% in some areas

Although there is no recent specific data, latest up-take figures for tuition partners – where approved providers offer catch-up – give a picture.

As of May 8, just 6.5 per cent of schools in York used the pillar while take-up was just 7.1 per cent among schools in Gateshead. Overall, one third of schools are still to use the NTP this year.

Sutton Trust research from 2019 found that 51 per cent of 11 to 16-year-olds in London have used private tutors, compared with 25 per cent of young people in the north.

The organisations say they hope the DfE will “work with providers with demonstrated impact to expand into cold spots”.

The new school-led tutoring pillar of the NTP, where money goes directly to schools, remains the most popular with 913,388 starts this year. This accounts for 76 per cent of tutoring courses this year.

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