Tutoring

New tutoring custodians vow to ‘win hearts and minds’

Tutors warn of a 'very real danger' money for the scheme will be pulled

Tutors warn of a 'very real danger' money for the scheme will be pulled

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A new custodian of the flagship National Tutoring Programme has admitted it needs to win headteachers’ “hearts and minds” to revive its fortunes.

The beleaguered HR firm Randstad was axed from running the programme (NTP) last year after continual problems led to ministers handing £349 million for tutors directly to schools.

Three new contractors will now run the scheme, including recruiting, training and quality assurance tutoring over the next two years.

But tutors are already warning of a “very real danger” money for the scheme will be pulled as soaring costs stretch school budgets.

It comes as a leading academy trust, Unity Schools Partnership, also pulled out, saying that while tutoring was a good idea, its implementation was a “nightmare” (see opinion piece, page 15).

Yalinie Vigneswaran, a senior programme director at the Education Development Trust (EDT), one of the three new contractors, said there was an “element of winning hearts and minds about tutoring and about the NTP”.

EDT has a £7.4 million contract to train school led-tutors and academic mentors – as it did last year under Randstad.

The former assistant headteacher added: “It will be a challenge for many reasons: schools are still recovering, they’ll still be thinking a lot about the impacts of Covid.”

‘It’s about getting our faces out there’

The NTP was criticised last year for being a “bureaucratic nightmare”.

But Vigneswaran, who led the original academic mentors’ programme at Teach First, said: “I’m hoping the engagement will be really obvious.

tutoring
Vigneswaran

“It’s about getting our faces out there, making clear who the leaders of the programme are and having live feedback, live data, live insights back out to schools.”

Tribal, the education services provider, will quality assure tuition partners and Cognition, a global education consultancy, will recruit academic mentors.

Tim Coulson, Unity’s chief executive and a former regional school commissioner, said the “PR battle that tutoring is a good idea hasn’t been won”. With rising costs, “getting tutoring still on the agenda is a harder battle”.

Unity launched SP Tutors in 2020 to ensure the government’s catch-up money did not get “dissipated” on profit-making companies.

In 2020-21, Unity made £407,000 from tutoring, according to accounts. Coulson said it would break even this year. More than 5,000 pupils in 150 schools were helped by the scheme.

The remaining 56 tuition partners will have to meet Tribal’s new quality framework, which ministers are signing off. It will include “zero tolerance” for compliance failures.

‘Danger’ tutoring will be overshadowed

Other heads have also told some tuition partners that catch-up is on the chopping block as energy bills rise. The government subsidises 60 per cent of tutor spend, with schools having to put in the rest.

Susannah Hardyman, the chief executive of tuition partner Action Tutoring, said schools needed “additional support and investment”.

“There is a very real danger that funding allocations for valuable interventions such as tutoring will get removed from school budgets. We know that this is already happening up and down the country.

“Now is not the time for schools to be cutting down on staff or stripping out evidenced-based interventions, such as tutoring, in order to balance their budgets.”

Statistics showing how many pupil premium children got tutoring this year will be published in the coming months.

Lee Elliot Major, the social mobility professor at the University of Exeter, said it was “becoming evident” that England’s education recovery efforts were not sufficient in countering education inequalities.

“Tutoring must be targeted for specific needs, addressing foundational skills of literacy and numeracy for example. It needs to complement what is being taught in the classroom. So much more could have been done to gain the trust and support of teachers.”

Tutoring widened for SEND pupils

tutoring
Grundy

The programme’s scope was previously criticised as being too narrow, but tutoring cash can now be spent on “alternative, established” interventions for children with special educational needs and disabilities, such as speech and language therapy.

The government said this could help with “learning capabilities, sensory development and communication”.

All schools are now also eligible for an academic mentor – funded at 60 per cent. Previously just schools with 20 per cent disadvantaged children were eligible.

Cognition, the £7.9 million recruiter of up to 3,600 mentors, said it would work “closely” with schools in poorer areas. But “a wide range of pupils will have been affected by school closures and we are keen to ensure that our service is accessible to all”, according to Clare Grundy, the firm’s UK operations director.

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