The government has appointed three providers to run the National Tutoring Programme, replacing under-fire Randstad as figures reveal takeup is more than 200,000 courses below target.
The Department for Education announced today more than two million tutoring courses had been started by pupils since the flagship education recovery scheme began.
But ministers have repeatedly promised two million starts this academic year alone, and new figures show they have achieved only 1,781,946 since September.
It marks a 584,614 increase on early May, but still leaves takeup 218,054 courses, or 10.9 per cent below the target. But the total since the programme began in late 2020 stands at 2,092,663.
And only 11 per cent of the starts so far this academic year are via the tuition partners route, which was meant to be the main arm of the programme.
Dutch HR firm Randstad had faced criticism over its handling of the scheme, and the majority of starts – 80 per cent since September – have been via the school-led tutoring arm.
A £349 million tutoring pot will be handed directly to schools from September to decide how to spend, but three firms have now been awarded smaller deals to support the programme over the next two years.
Three firms take on struggling tutoring programme
Tribal Group PLC, a multinational provider of education software and other services, has won the quality assurance part of the deal. It will “ensure schools can have confidence in the quality of tutoring”, the government said.
The Education Development Trust, a UK and international charity previously known as the Centre for British Teachers, will provide training services to tutors and academic mentors. This will ensure all tutors “have the right skills and knowledge”, according to the DfE.
It had already been brought in late last year to deliver school-led tutor training for the NTP.
Global consultancy firm Cognition Education won the third lot, recruiting and deploying academic mentors. They will be deployed to schools “most in need”.
The government said handing funding directly to schools would make it “easier than ever” to access tutoring.
Kathyrn Harris-Gurner, head of operations at Tribal Group, said it would work with school leaders, the DfE and tutoring sector to “put in place a new system for selecting and monitoring tuition partners, which ensures high standards”.
‘Exercise in backdoor compulsion’
Schools minister Will Quince said the three providers’ appointment would ensure “even more children can benefit”.
He also said the latest figures were “further evidence of the programme revolutionising the support available to the children who need it most”.
The figures show the north-west had the highest number of pupils starting courses this year, with 284,651, more than the 245,540 in London. Percentage figures for take-up, factoring in population sizes, were not provided.
The figures were collated on June 26, and the government expects numbers to “continue growing over the summer”. It says schools are “encouraged” to keep using the NTP “as part of any summer provision they are running”.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said he was “not surprised” takeup had risen since May – accusing the DfE of a “face-saving” campaign to pressurise schools into using the NTP.
This has involved “besieging them with telephone calls and the threat of a league table of schools’ take-up of the programme which is due to be published in the autumn“.
Barton said school leaders should be able to choose whether to use the programme, particularly as they will foot 40 per cent of the bill next year, rather than face an “exercise in backdoor compulsion”.
Limited takeup via tuition partners
Overall, 1,433,793 of the courses started this year have been through school-led tutoring – with only 200,835 via NTP tuition partners initially intended to be the main focus of the programme.
Tom Hooper, founder of NTP tuition partner Third Space Learning, said more “urgency” and collaboration were now needed to boost takeup, particularly among disadvantaged pupils. But he said new providers had “good reputations”.
John Nichols, president of the Tutors’ Association, also called on new providers to “work constructively with the tuition sector” given past problems.
He noted the latest contracts were the DfE’s “third opportunity to get this right”, as the scheme was originally run by a consortium of charities before Randstad was brought in. “Time will tell if the new contractors are up to the challenge or not.”