Investigation: DfE silent on missing £143m tutor cash

Fears Covid catch-up millions were a 'mirage' as government refuses to say if it will honour pledge to provide funding in 2020-21
16th October 2020, 12:57am

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Investigation: DfE silent on missing £143m tutor cash

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archive/investigation-dfe-silent-missing-ps143m-tutor-cash
Piggy Bank

The government has refused to account for £143 million of its Covid catch-up tutoring fund, after Tes found the cash has yet to be assigned.

And the Department for Education will not say whether it is sticking by its original pledge for the money - amounting to 40 per cent of the whole tutoring fund - to benefit pupils this academic year.

Heads have said it "beggars belief" that a "big chunk" of the money has not yet been allocated, and warns that there is a "real danger" the benefit of the fund will be lost "the longer it takes to turn it into tangible support".

In June, the Department for Education (DfE) and 10 Downing Street together launched a billion-pound Covid catch-up plan, including £350 million for a new National Tutoring Programme (NTP).


Background: £1 billion 'Covid catch-up plan' unveiled

Viewpoint: Is the £1bn catch-up more about headlines than pupils?

NTP: No Covid catch-up tutors until second half of next term


The tutoring scheme would "increase access to high-quality tuition for the most disadvantaged young people over the 2020-21 academic year", the government said.

However, Tes has established that roughly £143 million of the fund has yet to be assigned.

And the DfE has refused to say if it will honour its pledge to provide the full amount of the funding in 2020-21.

When asked about the missing £143 million, the department would only say that further details would be released following the government's spending review.

According to official DfE guidance, the NTP will comprise of at least three parts in the 2020-21 academic year, including:

  • A 5 to 16 programme
  • A 16 to 19 fund
  • A Reception-year early language programme

Details published by the DfE show the 16-19 fund is worth £96 million and the early years programme is worth £9 million.

The remaining 5 to 16 programme is made up of two parts: the NTP Tuition Partners, which will allow schools to access heavily subsidised tuition from a list of approved partners; and the NTP Academic Mentors, which will provide one-to-one and small-group support for disadvantaged pupils.

The NTP website states that the subsidised tutoring strand is worth £76 million.

Separately, the government granted Teach First £6.44 million to run the recruitment and training process for the academic mentors.

Teach First is seeking to recruit up to 1,000 mentors, who will, in turn, each receive salaries of £19,000 per annum from the government, amounting to £19 million - if every mentor were to work for a year. This brings the total worth of the mentors strand to £25.44m.

Altogether, Tes' calculations show the NTP is worth £206.44 million. This is £143.56 million short of the £350 million fund assigned to the programme.

When asked to explain where the remainder of the money has been spent, or will be spent, the DfE said Tes' breakdown of the fund was broadly correct, but did not provide any more detail.

Instead, it said further information on programmes within the NTP would be set out following the government's spending review, which will look at budgets for 2021-22 to 2023-24.

Asked if that meant the unassigned £143.56 million from the NTP would be allocated as part of the spending review, the DfE would not provide an answer.

Jules White, headteacher and founder of the WorthLess? school funding campaign, said it was "dispiriting" that the full allocation of the money seemed to be a "mirage".

"Disadvantaged children have been most adversely affected by the pandemic and as the government continues to set a course for examinations which fails to take into account the current challenges, it is impossible to see why students should be further let down if promised financial support for schools fails to materialise in full," he said.

"There are also significant reservations about how the National Tutoring Programme will actually work. Yet again, we are weeks into a school term and yet there is no detail about who the tutors will be, how and where they will work and what their skills and specialisms are.  Students and schools deserve much, much better."

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), added: "We are concerned to learn that a significant sum of money for the National Tutoring Programme has apparently yet to be allocated.

"It is essential that catch-up funding is delivered as quickly as possible so that it can benefit children whose education has been significantly disrupted by the Covid pandemic and who desperately need additional support.

"The length of time it is taking to get the National Tutoring Programme up and running is already a source of frustration, given that it would have been a lot simpler to have just given the money directly to schools.

"It beggars belief if it is the case that a big chunk of the money hasn't even been assigned yet. There is a real danger that the potential benefit of this funding will be lost the longer it takes to turn it into tangible support."

A spokesperson from the NTP said: "The Education Endowment Foundation has been given an initial tranche of money totalling £76 million to establish NTP Tuition Partners in 2020-21. Likewise, Teach First have been given £6.4 million to deliver NTP Academic Mentors, with £19k salaries paid directly to schools by the Department for Education.

"Both 5-16 pillars of the National Tutoring Programme are funded from the government's £350m allocation to tutoring, through the £1 billion coronavirus catch-up package.

"The NTP aims to support schools in providing a sustained response to the coronavirus pandemic and to provide a longer-term contribution to closing the attainment gap."

A DfE spokesperson said: "Our £1 billion Covid catch-up package will help to 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 £350 million National Tutoring Programme for disadvantaged students.

"The programme aims to ensure that high-quality tutoring is available in all parts of the country to those disadvantaged children and young people who will need the most support to catch up."

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