Tutoring programme underspend ramps up to £240m

Latest data shows 43% of funding went unspent last financial year

Latest data shows 43% of funding went unspent last financial year

25 Jul 2023, 11:54

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A huge £240 million of tutoring cash has now gone unspent by schools, new figures show, calling further into question the impact of the government’s flagship catch-up scheme.

The figures emerged as a government-funded evaluation found just half of leaders were satisfied with last year’s National Tutoring Programme – which was run by HR firm Randstad. Most were also unhappy with the level of admin around using it.

Government has since overhauled its flagship tutor scheme, with cash now going straight to schools and provider Randstad axed.

Department for Education figures show that in the last financial year, a staggering £178 million, 43 per cent of the tutoring funding for that year, went unspent.

This is on top of another £62 million that was unspent in 2021-22, and on top of £220 million unspent from other catch-up schemes, according to the National Audit Office.

Many schools said they could not afford to put their own cash towards tutoring, a requirement to access the subsidy, and others said the scheme was overly bureaucratic.

Schools last year had to contribute 25 per cent to the cost of tutoring, rising to 40 per cent this year.

43% of funding unspent last year

Schools Week revealed in November last year that more than £100 million was expected to be clawed back from schools in unspent tutoring cash from the 2021-22 academic year.

Figures published in April confirmed this was £114 million, with nearly half of the England’s schools not using all their catch-up allocation.

Latest DfE major projects portfolio data – which covers financial years rather than academic – shows £178 million of the £416 million tutoring funding for the year to March 2023 went unused.

This cash was due to be handed back to the Treasury, but will now be kept by the DfE and go towards its new grant to help schools cover pay rises next year.

The department refused to say how much of the total underspend would be used in this way, however.

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said NTP funding “should not be dependent on schools being able to put in some top-up money”.

“This requirement obviously means that schools which are in the toughest financial circumstances simply cannot access this funding.”

‘Leave recovery money with schools’

He said the underspend was “almost certainly being recycled to deliver the teachers’ pay additional grant, which is better than making its way back to the Treasury, but the fact remains that money intended for recovery should be left with schools to do just that”.

It comes after the DfE announced it would increase the planned subsidy for tutoring in the next academic year to 50 per cent. Government funding had been due to fall to cover just 25 per cent of costs.

However, no additional funding will be made available, meaning the government expects less demand than anticipated, meaning its contribution can go further.

A department spokesperson said: “We have made over £1 billion available for the National Tutoring Programme to make sure that every school that wants to deliver tutoring is able to do so.

“And whilst some schools did not spend all of the money allocated to them, in many cases this was because they were able to deliver more for less. As a result, over three million courses have been started, supporting pupils most in need of additional help.” 

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