Running the government’s flagship National Tutoring Programme (NTP) for its inaugural year was “a bit bumpier” than expected, but there are no regrets, says Professor Becky Francis.
The chief executive of the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) said “serious disruption” caused by Covid impacted the scheme.
Although the programme met its 250,000-pupil enrolment target, just 205,538 youngsters had started sessions by the end of August.
The last-minute lockdown in January left the EEF, which oversaw the scheme alongside four other charities, rapidly putting tuition providers through safeguarding checks so they could offer online support for pupils stuck at home.
As well as disrupting getting tutors into schools, the lockdown hit leaders’ “appetite to try new things or be able to extend themselves,” Francis said. “It’s been a hugely challenging year for everybody.
“If we’d known [there would be more waves] we might have thought more or been able at least to anticipate the need to move models of delivery from classroom based to online, or from online back to classroom again.”
A particular problem was balancing being “true to the evidence” on tutoring, while “being flexible with responsive demands and needs on the ground”.
The EEF normally points out what works best in schools, rather than delivering a scheme.
And Francis said while the foundation was “determined” it would not be “deliverers” again, it would be “more hands-on” in future work.
However, she was “disappointed” the new charity set up by the EEF, the National Tutoring Foundation, was not selected to run NTP year two. Randstad, a Dutch HR firm that submitted a much cheaper bid, won the contract.
Under the new scheme, the government will start to taper the subsidy it provides for schools to access tutoring.
But Francis urged “really careful scrutiny” over how this impacted the scheme.