Tutoring

Tutoring still not ‘sustainable’, NFER report finds

As the flagship scheme heads for its final year, education researchers warn funding, concerns on tuition supply and administration could hinder progress

As the flagship scheme heads for its final year, education researchers warn funding, concerns on tuition supply and administration could hinder progress

The government’s flagship catch-up programme has failed so far to create a “sustainable” tutoring market – despite promises from ministers to make such support a “permanent feature” of the education system.

The National Foundation for Education Research say school leaders have “significant concerns” about sourcing suitable tutors, after surveying over 400 staff in March.

It indicates the National Tutoring Programme (NTP) “has not yet facilitated the creation of a sustainable tutoring market” as originally intended when it launched during the pandemic.

It will “likely hinder schools’ ability to use tutoring as a tool” for supporting poorer pupils in the long-term, NFER adds.

This is despite the NTP entering its fourth and final year from September. Ministers pledged in the 2022 schools white paper to make tutoring a “permanent feature” of the education system.

NFER, which also runs the government-funded NTP evaluations, found only 36 per cent of senior leaders using the programme were “confident” they would be able to continue finding tutors.

It was also one of the top five reasons why schools stopped using the programme, with heads’ funding concerns also having a “substantial impact” on tutoring sustainability.

NFER recommends more research is needed to understand “regional preparedness and functioning” of local tutoring markets to help target support and include tutors as part of the wider school workforce strategy.

Funding and admin causing drop outs

Researchers also say issues with NTP funding arrangements were the “main reason” schools are stopping delivering the programme.

More than half of leaders (55 per cent) said the government subsidy reducing was the reason they dropped out.

Annual funding arrangements making it difficult to forward plan and the administrative burden required to access funding were also listed as “significant deterrents” (see image).

However, this was before government said in May it would increase next year’s offer from 25 per cent to 50 per cent, so researchers say some findings may have changed.

But only 46 per cent agreed providing tutoring would be their top priority if more funding was available for supporting poorer pupils.

And opinions on tutoring’s cost-effectiveness in improving attainment for disadvantaged pupils were split – with 42 per cent saying it was, while 45 per cent said it was not.

NFER recommended exploring how additional financial support could be given to schools over a longer period.

Doubt on tutoring longevity

In positive news, three quarters (76 per cent) currently using the NTP did believe it was improving attainment of poorer pupils at their school.

But more than half (58 per cent) of leaders also did not think tutoring was a long-term solution to closing the attainment gap for poorer pupils.

Nearly half (47 per cent) said their school only offers tutoring during normal lesson times. This means pupils will be missing lessons and the benefits are “potentially reduced,” NFER said.

NFER’s other recommendations include reducing the administrative requirements and providing more notice for schools on funding arrangements.

Dr Ben Styles, NFER’s head of classroom practice and workforce, said “tutoring is not yet embedded in schools”, adding: “Long-term financial support is needed alongside reductions to the administrative burden on staff.

“Overcoming these barriers is vital if tutoring is to win the hearts and minds of schools and be seen as a sustainable way of helping to close the attainment disadvantage gap.”

Schools Week revealed how government has quietly abandoned hope of reaching its target of six million course starts under the programme. The latest official figures showing just 3.4 million starts as of January.

A DfE spokesperson said the NTP is “helping those pupils most in need of support”, adding: “Since the evidence from this survey was collected in March, we have announced that the subsidy will increase from 25 per cent to 50 per cent next year, having listened to feedback from schools. We will therefore be matching school’s funding contribution levels.”

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