'Big concerns’ over Covid catch-up tutors shortage

Champion of the government's 'catch-up' plan warns there may not be enough high-quality tutors to deliver it
9th September 2020, 11:39am

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'Big concerns’ over Covid catch-up tutors shortage

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archive/big-concerns-over-covid-catch-tutors-shortage
Big Concerns Have Been Raised That The National Tutoring Programme Will Not Work As There Are Not Enough 'high Quality' Tutors Available

A champion of the government's national tutoring programme to help pupils catch up on lost learning owing to the Covid-19 pandemic has warned that the scheme might not work because there are not enough high-quality tutors available.

Lee Elliot Major, who used to head up the Sutton Trust, which is helping to deliver the scheme, said there were now "big concerns" over whether there was sufficient capacity to support the hundreds of thousands of pupils who will need it.

There have also been fears raised that disadvantaged young people in parts of the country with the fewest tutors available might not benefit from the programme at all.

Robert Halfon, the chair of the Commons Education Select Committee, has said there needs to be a national army of retired teachers, Ofsted inspectors and graduates recruited to ensure that the programme works.


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The National Tutoring Programme was announced after prime minister Boris Johnson had promised the government would deliver a huge amount of catch-up support for pupils over the summer.

It is part of the government's £1 billion Covid-19 "catch-up fund" and will see £350 million spent on extra tutoring support for disadvantaged students.

It has been created by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) in partnership with The Sutton Trust.

However, there are growing concerns that there are not enough tutors available to make the plan work.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning, Mr Eliott Major, who is a former chief executive of the Sutton Trust and now a professor of social mobility, said: "I think there are big concerns that we do not have enough high-quality tutors to deliver this for the hundreds of thousands of people across the country and in different parts of the country as well."

These concerns were echoed by Susannah Hardyman, chief executive of the charity Action Tutoring, who told the programme: "The reality is that there are not hundreds of charities or hundreds of private tutoring companies that work with schools, that have experience of disadvantaged pupils."

Mr Eliot Major has been a supporter of the NTP and wrote for Tes calling on the education sector to throw its weight behind the plan.

There is also a call to allow universities to be involved in the scheme to ensure it reaches all parts of the country.

Henri Murison, chief executive of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, told the Today programme: "At the moment, schools in the North East, for instance, unless universities are given contracts and certainty to be able to provide interventions, will not be able to get a good quality trained tutor to their school."

Risk of 'wasted' money

Nick Bent, a former Labour parliamentary candidate who runs The Tutor Trust charity said: "There is a risk some taxpayers' money is frankly wasted on short-term, low-quality provision and it is in everyone's interest to avoid that - not least the Treasury's."

But Mr Halfon said that he believed the NTP would make a difference.

He said: "We know that a few hours of tuition for a few weeks can make a difference of five months according to studies.

"What I would like to see is a kind of national army in order to support this of retired teachers, of Ofsted inspectors and graduates working all around the country, organised and supported by the government to ensure these children get the catch-up that is needed.

"It needs to be sooner rather than later. There needs to be a national assessment to work out how much catch-up is needed."

He said this would also allow the government to make a "much wiser decision" in terms of exams.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "Our £1 billion Covid catch-up package will tackle the impact of lost teaching time as a result of the pandemic, including a £650 million catch-up premium to help schools support all pupils and the £350 million National Tutoring Programme for disadvantaged students. The programme is designed to improve the reach of high-quality providers, including by delivering tutoring remotely, to ensure disadvantaged children in all parts of the country can benefit.  

"Recruitment for tutoring providers to be part of the national programme, as tuition partners and academic mentors, is ongoing.

"Schools across the country are already taking steps to address the impact of lost learning time, with freedom to decide how to spend their premium funding in the best way for their pupils."

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