Long read: How a tutoring revolution left smaller schools behind

A small number of 'super tutor' schools are delivering nearly half of all catch-up, with rural and small schools missing out

A small number of 'super tutor' schools are delivering nearly half of all catch-up, with rural and small schools missing out


Half of the 22 million tutoring hours last year were completed by just 10 per cent of the country’s schools – exposing huge variance in take-up with children in rural areas missing out.

National Tutoring Programme (NTP) league tables, published last week, showed schools did not spend a third of last year’s tutoring cash – £114 million – which will be clawed back and returned to the Treasury. 

Overall, half did not use all their school-led catch-up allocation to organise tutoring themselves.

However, schools had to contribute 25 per cent of tutoring costs, which many said they could not afford. Others said the scheme was too bureaucratic and chose to do their own catch-up.

Meet the ‘super tutors’

Analysis by Schools Week reveals much greater variance of take-up than first thought. About 12 per cent of schools delivered 11 million hours of tutoring – half of all the tutoring hours last year.

These were more likely to be secondary schools (1,411) than primaries (998), despite five-fold more primaries nationally. Twenty-four were special schools, one a pupil referral unit and 98 all-through schools.

Twenty per cent of the prolific tutoring schools were in London – where tuition has been more widespread for years – compared with 5 per cent in the north east. 

Dame Maura Regan, a former trust chief executive who is now a trustee at regional network Schools North East, said tutoring in the region had “varying degrees of success”. 

Pockets of the north east had recruitment difficulties and there was no “culture of tutoring” in many parts of the region. 

However, the Northern Education Trust delivered 80 per cent more than its allocated school-led tutoring hours, at a cost of over £300,000. 

Andrew Jordan, its senior executive principal, said systems already in place allowed it to get tutoring up and running quickly. 

Academies did far more tutoring, delivering on average 1,329 hours per school compared with 790 in local authority-maintained schools. 

Shire schools fall behind

Looking at all 21,000 eligible schools, the south west on average had the fewest tutoring hours per school – 710 compared with 1,647 in London. 

In addition, one in eight schools (2,645) did not use any of the three NTP tutoring routes. 

Schools in five “shire” counties – Shropshire, North Yorkshire, South Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Buckinghamshire – were the most likely to shun tutoring. 

These areas have below average free school meal rates and tend to be geographically large with sweeping rural areas. 

Ben Gadsby, head of policy at Impetus, a charity that helped to establish the NTP, said: “Part of the challenge the NTP is supposed to address is making tutoring work for all 25,000 schools. 

“This analysis suggests it’s working less well for smaller schools who have smaller NTP budgets.”

Source National Tutoring Programme final performance statistics 2021 22

The top 10 largest trusts accounted for about 5 per cent (1.1 million) of all tutoring hours. 

Harris Federation delivered 124 per cent of its school-led tutoring allocated hours. Each of its 49 schools identified the most vulnerable students and focused on English, maths and science, a spokesperson said. 

It used three tuition partners but also deployed its own staff last year, which was “beneficial for students as staff were familiar with them and knew precisely where the gaps in learning were”. 

The 47-school Bishop Wilkinson Catholic Education Trust delivered 47 per cent of its school-led tutoring, and did an extra 1,911 hours through tuition partners. 

Disjointed and bureaucratic’

Nick Hurn, the trust’s chief executive, said almost half of its funding was reclaimed by the DfE “which isn’t ideal as this money could and should have been used for our pupils”. 

The programme felt “quite a disjointed and bureaucratic process” with the guidance not “always clear”. Instead it carried out its own “school funded” tutoring schemes. 

“We must reflect on this and focus on how we can utilise these opportunities more effectively as a trust … in spite of the overly bureaucratic nature of these schemes”. 

The NTP has been criticised after just over half of pupils tutored last year were eligible for pupil premium. 

But the top 10 per cent of schools for tutoring did have above-average rates of pupils on free school meals – 35 per cent compared with 22 per cent nationally.

Unions have warned the league tables “should not be used as a major indicator of a school’s appetite to make sure of the tutoring scheme”. 

The data also does not include how many hours of tutoring schools may have done with academic mentors. 

Ministers have also been warned the tapering of their tutoring funding – which will drop to 25 per cent next year – will mean even fewer schools access the scheme.

The DfE did not respond to a request for comment.

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