A former Ofsted chief inspector will head a new charity that is hoping to takeover running the government’s flagship National Tutoring Programme.

The new National Tutoring Foundation has been set up by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), which is currently one of five charities running the NTP.

Professor Becky Francis, EEF’s chief executive, will serve as a trustee of the new charity, which will be led by Christine Gilbert, a former head of Ofsted.

The other founding trustees include Sonia Thompson, headteacher at St Matthew’s Primary School in Birmingham and Graham Elton, a partner at consultancy firm Bain.

Charity will be dissolved if unsuccessful

Gilbert will oversee the charity’s bid to run the NTP next year, with a £130 million contract to run year two of the scheme currently out for tender. More trustees would be appointed if the bid is successful.

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Professor Becky Francis

If unsuccessful in their bid to run the NTP, the charity will be dissolved. It’s expected the successful bidder will be notified at the end of April.

Gilbert said today the “NTP has the potential to help level the educational playing field between disadvantaged pupils and their classmates.

“I’m delighted to be coming on board to support this endeavour and the new charity in their bid.”

The EEF said the founding charities are “committed to ensuring the NTP has a legacy in the English school system and will support whichever organisation is selected through the competitive tender process”.

New charity comes amid NTP criticism

The move by EEF to set up an “independent” charity comes amid continued criticism over the performance of the government’s £350 million tutoring scheme.

The National Audit Office last week revealed that, as of February, only one-third of children enrolled for tutoring under the programme had started courses.

Of the 125,200 pupils allocated a tutoring place, only 41,100 had started the course. Just 44 per cent were pupil premium eligible.

But the the NTP said some schools opted to schedule tutoring for later in the year, following the recent lockdown, and percentages starting tutoring had risen.

As Schools Week reported this month, the Department for Education did not stipulate a target number of pupil premium children to be reached this year.

Next year, the DfE expects at least 65 per cent of tutoring next year to be provided to pupil-premium children.

Tutors’ association calls for public inquiry

The Tutors’ Association, which has previously criticised the NTP for naming only three of its members among the 33 first phase providers, called this week for a public inquiry into the programme.

It follows revelations in the Guardian that Third Space Learning, one of the programme’s tuition partners, had employed tutors in Sri Lanka as young as 17 with guaranteed minimum pay as low as £1.57 an hour.

John Nichols, president of the Tutors’ Association, questioned the impartiality of the programme given that Nesta, one of the EEF’s partners in delivering the first phase, has invested millions of pounds in Third Space Learning.

According to Nesta’s website, the charity has invested £2.25 million over found rounds into the company since 2015.

Nichols demanded an inquiry “into the whole selection and implementation process” of phase one, and said his organisation was the “most appropriate body” to review and accredit delivery partners for the second phase.

But the NTP today denied any conflict of interest, stating that Nesta was “not involved in the assessment of any of the bids to become a tuition partner”.

Nesta was approached for comment.