Tutoring

Ministers forced into NTP target transparency – 15 months on

Commissioner orders DfE to release reports on inaugural year performance

Commissioner orders DfE to release reports on inaugural year performance

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Ministers have been forced to reveal how their flagship tutoring programme performed during its inaugural year. 

The order from the Information Commissioner’s Office came after a 15-month transparency battle with Schools Week.

The commissioner told the Department for Education to release statistics on whether the national tutoring programme (NTP) was hitting its targets when it was run by its founders, the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and Teach First. 

It follows criticism of the programme this year that led to the axing of its new provider, the for-profit HR company Randstad.

While more performance information has been published this year, the sector is still waiting to find out how many pupil premium children have benefited from the scheme.

Last year Schools Week asked the government for any reports it received from EEF and Teach First on how they were meeting their targets.

The DfE argued that releasing the information would prejudice “effective conduct of public affairs”.

DfE ‘prevented scrutiny’

However, the commissioner said the importance of the NTP “adds considerable weight to the public interest in disclosure of information demonstrating how well the programme is (or is not) performing”. 

“Providers fortunate enough to be awarded large government contracts should be well aware of the enhanced public scrutiny that is likely to result.” 

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Morgan

Katherine Gundersen, the deputy director at the Campaign for Freedom of Information, welcomed the decision. “It shouldn’t have required an appeal by Schools Week to force the department to disclose such basic information about the performance of contractors delivering a £1 billion programme to help pupils.

“Government often complains about the ‘burden’ of FOI, but in this case the burden has been entirely self-imposed by resisting disclosure of non-sensitive information for 15 months. It’s also prevented scrutiny of how the NTP was performing.”

Stephen Morgan, the shadow schools minister, said ministers had “repeatedly dodged basic questions” on the scheme. 

The three PowerPoints released – from Spring 2021 – show that in April just 19.3 per cent of EEF’s target for alternative provision schools was reached. This was 26.4 per cent for special provision, compared with 55 per cent for secondary and more than 100 per cent for primary. 

In April, a month after schools reopened, 85 per cent of sessions were still online. 

The data will inform the delayed independent evaluation of the NTP, due to be published in the autumn. 

As Schools Week revealed, by the end of year 1 one in five pupils enrolled for tutoring had yet to receive any tuition.

The DfE did not respond to a request for comment. 

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