Just 1 in 6 schools commit to keep tutoring when cash runs out

Five key findings from Ofsted and NFER evaluations into government’s flagship National Tutoring Programme

Five key findings from Ofsted and NFER evaluations into government’s flagship National Tutoring Programme

31 Oct 2023, 0:01

Only one in six leaders definitely plan to continue offering tutoring once direct government funding runs out next year, new survey data shows.

An evaluation by the National Foundation for Educational Research also found more than quarter of heads plan to ditch tutoring from 2024, despite the majority saying the scheme had a positive impact.

It comes as a separate report by Ofsted warned that sessions that focused on “exam success” failed to secure the knowledge pupils needed to progress and access their schools’ curriculum.

Both reports focus on the third year of the National Tutoring Programme, 2022-23, when schools received tutoring funding directly following the Randstad fiasco in year two.

Here’s what you need to know…

1. Just 1 in 6 say they’ll continue tutoring

The NFER evaluation found that although most senior leaders and teachers felt that tutoring was “embedded as a fixture in their school at the time of the interviews” this was because NTP funding had “made that possible”.

Forty-eight per cent of leaders surveyed were unsure if they would continue to provide tutoring after government funding ended in 2024. More than a quarter (27 per cent) said they would not. Only 15 per cent said they definitely would continue.

NFER recommended that the DfE “explore how financial support can be sustained to allow tutoring to become a permanent fixture in schools”.

Ofsted’s evaluation also cast doubt on the long-term sustainability of tutoring. It found that most school leaders surveyed “said they would be cutting or reducing their tutoring programmes next year due to the reductions in NTP funding and increasing school costs”.

Ofsted also found that a few tuition partners “were likely to drop the NTP from their business model next year”.

“For most, this was a direct result of the changes to the subsidy level. The schools they were currently working with were unable to keep tutoring in their budgets.”

2. Exam success tutoring is ad hoc and generic

Ofsted said the re-introduction of exams post-pandemic had “influenced” the approach some leaders had taken with tutoring, with a “shift” in who is receiving tuition.

Typically, more year 11 pupils were selected, particularly those who were considered to be on the borderline of a GCSE pass.

The watchdog said this was “despite many leaders telling us that pupils in key stage 3 had the most significant gaps in their knowledge and were most in need of catching up”.

Sixteen out of 22 secondary schools surveyed were “solely focusing their tutoring on exam preparation and success” for year 11.

Ofsted said they were “not using it as part of a carefully considered programme to help pupils fill gaps in their learning”.

The watchdog said that generally, when tutoring was “focused on exam success”, the tutoring curriculum was “ad hoc and consisted of generic revision content”.

“It did not attempt to determine pupils’ misunderstandings or misconceptions in subject-specific contexts. Sessions failed to secure the component knowledge that pupils needed to allow them to progress and access the school’s curriculum.”

3. Some of the weakest tutoring was provided remotely

Ofsted said schools without a “clear” tutoring strategy or “positive culture” of tutoring tended to use the tuition partners route for online tutoring. Some of the “weakest” tutoring was provided remotely.

In these cases, school leaders saw tutoring as a “bolted-on addition to their curriculum offer” and tutors had “little or no communication with school staff to discuss pupils’ starting points”.

Pupils were also less likely to enjoy it, and many tutors relied on pupils telling them about the gaps in their knowledge.

Ofsted said another reason for weaknesses in tutoring sessions was schools using external agencies that were “not aware of, or following, the school’s curriculum”.

“Pupils, therefore, were receiving a disconnected series of learning experiences and pedagogical approaches.”

Communication between teachers and external tutors tended to be better when tutoring was provided in person.

But “good and clear communication” generally only happened when the tutor was employed as a member of school staff.

4. ‘Clear difference’ between qualified teachers and TAs

NFER asked leaders using school-led tutoring or academic mentors who they used to deliver the tutoring. Fifty-five per cent said it was delivered by existing qualified classroom teachers, but 36 per cent reported using teaching assistants.

Schools that did not use qualified teachers as tutors reported “specific benefits from their choice of tutors”.

TAs delivering tutoring also saw the “difference their support was making to pupils’ progress and confidence”.

However, Ofsted’s evaluation found a “clear difference between sessions with qualified teachers and those with teaching assistants”.

TAs “often lacked the subject knowledge needed to address pupils’ misconceptions quickly and with precision”.

“Weaker sessions” were observed when tutors were “not sufficiently knowledgeable in the subjects they were tutoring in”.

TAs also “often lacked both the subject knowledge and the subject pedagogical knowledge needed”. 

5. Continuing NTP is ‘vital’

The NFER said the majority of senior leaders, teachers and tutoring providers it interviewed felt the NTP “had been effective at reaching many pupils”, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, whose learning was most disrupted by the pandemic.

Several expressed concern that the scale of the pandemic impact meant “that continuation of the NTP would be vital”.

Most senior leaders also found the third year more flexible and easier to manage, as all the funding was going directly to schools in one grant.

Staff also told Ofsted that the benefits of tutoring for pupils justified the extra workload.

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