MPs: Keep tutoring subsidy in poor areas to avoid ‘epidemic of inequality’

Ministers urged to review plans to gradually taper off subsidies for flagship catch-up programme

Ministers urged to review plans to gradually taper off subsidies for flagship catch-up programme

Ministers must consider keeping current National Tutoring Programme subsidy rates in poorer areas as children face “an epidemic of educational inequality”, MPs have warned.

Government has been told to prove its flagship catch-up policy is working or look at cutting ties with under-fire contractor Randstad.

A cross party report from the education select committee has put forward proposals to revive the programme.

Here’s what you need to know…

1. Review NTP taper subsidies

As Schools Week first revealed, the subsidy providing by government towards the cost of tutoring will drop dramatically next year – leaving schools footing more of the bill.

For tutoring from approved tuition partners, the government subsidy will drop from 70 per cent from 50 per cent from September.

For academic mentors, it will reduce from 95 per cent to 50 per cent, and the new school-led tutoring subsidy provided by government will fall from 75 per cent to 60 per cent. 

Across all three pillars it would then plunge again to 25 per cent in 2023-24. 

MPs heard there was a “real concern” tapering could inhibit school take-up in some of the most disadvantaged areas. 

They say DfE must instead “review the plans to reduce the subsidies” and “consider maintaining the existing subsidy rates in the most disadvantaged areas, until the data suggests these children have caught up with their learning”. 

2. ‘Give us more NTP data’ 

MPs say they expect “full transparency” about the NTP’s operation as it’s “not clear” it will “deliver for the pupils that need it most”. 

As Schools Week revealed, MPs are still waiting for data promised by contractor Randstad and DfE at the committee earlier this month. So far, only overall take up in the first term of this year has been published. Despite being a third of the way through the year,  just 15 per cent of the promised two million courses had been started.

The committee calls for the DfE to publishing statistics on a “half-termly basis” with a “greater degree of granularity”. 

They say if the NTP fails to meet its targets by spring, the department “should terminate its contract with Randstad and re-run the tendering process”.

Schools minister Robin Walker has pledged to publish regional data “at the earliest opportunity”. He said “the programme is on track to deliver its objectives for this year”.

Karen Guthrie, Randstad’s senior programme director, said in the latest data they are “encouraged to see an increase in the number of packages delivered”.

3. ‘Spaghetti junction’ of catch-up funding

MPs are concerned about a “spaghetti junction approach” to the £4.9 billion catch-up funding announced, “piling more work on teachers and support staff”. 

It has been “fragmented” across the recovery premium, universal catch-up premium and various tuition funds, causing a “complex bureaucratic system”, MPs said.

“The funding schemes should be simplified and merged into one pot for schools to access and spend where the recovery need is greatest,” they say.

They say Ofsted should check “effective governance and scrutiny of resource allocation extends to catch-up funding”. 

4. Mental health assessment for all kids

MPs say all pupils should “undergo a mental health and wellbeing assessment to understand the scale” of the problem. They heard this has been one of the greatest challenges when schools returned. 

They also call for the senior mental health lead training, a delayed scheme which begun this year, to be “fast-tracked”. 

5. Pilot of extra-curricular activities

The DfE had ruled out funding a longer school day for schools, saying it would involve significant delivery considerations” including teaching capacity, new legislation and accountability measures to ensure quality.

But the committee says DfE “must introduce a pilot of optional extra-curricular activities for children to help improve academic attainment and wellbeing”. 

If a pilot in poorer areas proved effective, ministers should secure funding to roll it out wider.

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