A leading tutoring charity has gone public to criticise the “deeply concerning” watering down of standards in the beleaguered National Tutoring Programme.
Ministers ditched a condition that catch-up mentors must be graduates and will now allow larger tutoring groups in a raft of changes last week amid slow take-up of the scheme.
It followed Schools Week revealing the flagship scheme’s contractor Randstad had also told tutors they no longer must ensure their catch-up reaches two-thirds of poorer pupils.
In a blog this morning, Action Tutoring chief executive Susannah Hardyman said she was “deeply concerned” about the changes that are “only serving to water down the NTP”.
“This risks losing the potential the programme has to benefit less advantaged pupils in particular.”
Evidence from the Education Endowment Foundation suggests “small group tuition is effective and, as a rule of thumb, the smaller the group the better”.
It comes as schools minister Robin Walker was questioned this morning over the under-fire catch-up scheme.
Latest figures show just over a third of the promised two million tutoring courses have started this year, with the majority organised by schools themselves.
Asked whether he would cancel Randstad’s contract if delivery “doesn’t improve”, Walker said he is “monitoring performance all the time.”
“We will look at all the options to make sure we have the most effective delivery in the next year of the programme.”
Action Tutoring, an approved NTP tuition partner that expects to provide catch-up for 7,000 pupils this year, was one of five organisations that wrote to ministers opposing the pupil premium target change.
Randstad has yet to share basic data showing how many poorer pupils it has helped six weeks after MPs demanded it.
Walker said this morning he was also unable to provide a “precise figure” for how many pupils have benefited from tutoring overall, but they aim to publish “before the end of this month”.
Hardyman said “greater transparency and accountability are essential to the success of the programme”.
“Stakeholders including Tuition Partners, schools and sector leaders must get access to half termly progress reports and a reliable channel for making enquiries or sharing feedback,” she added.
Hardyman has now urged ministers to “strongly consider” not reducing the subsidy rates next year to “ensure no one is left behind” given take-up “has not been as high as targeted”.
The amount government pays towards tutoring will drop from 70 per cent to 50 per cent.
Hardyman added she “believed the NTP can be reformed to meet the daunting challenge of narrowing the attainment gap as well as recovering lost learning time for disadvantaged pupils … we hope in particular to see the NTP have a long term, lasting legacy in the UK education system.”
Walker maintained today he wants tutoring to become an “established part of the system.
“We do think that there’s something for every school in this National Tutoring Programme and we want to make sure that reach is improved.”