The NTP responds to the 5 main teacher complaints

With the National Tutoring Programme attracting criticism, its director addresses the most common teacher complaints
9th December 2020, 5:41pm
Robbie Coleman


The NTP responds to the 5 main teacher complaints
Coronavirus Catch-up Tutors: The Director Of The National Tutoring Programme Has Responded To Teachers' Complaints

In the middle of a pandemic, sustaining the familiar is hard enough. So it's understandable that teachers and school leaders have plenty of questions when they are asked to consider signing up to something new. 

The National Tutoring Programme was launched this term to give schools extra support for their disadvantaged pupils during an incredibly challenging year. It is clearly meeting a need - thousands of pupils have already been enrolled in tutoring with tuition partners selected by the Education Endowment Foundation, while the first cohort of nearly 200 academic mentors, trained and recruited by Teach First, is already hard at work. 

But the NTP has a long way to go. One of the few approaches in the EEF's Teaching and Learning Toolkit that's supported by a stronger evidence base than tutoring is feedback. To make the NTP as good as it can be, we've tried to seek out as much feedback as we can - and not to shy away from challenge.

Criticisms of the National Tutoring Programme

I've tried to respond to five of the most common comments we've received so far.

1. Tutoring is starting too late to make a difference 

The NTP launched on schedule, after the first half of the autumn term. We selected this start date for two reasons. First, to give schools time to assess pupils' needs and deal with the huge logistical challenges of reopening. Second, to give the EEF team responsible for selecting tuition partners enough time to rigorously assess potential providers.

We prioritised establishing a service that could become sustainable. We knew that if we rushed the launch, the risk of failure would increase. 

But this criticism is fair: November is later than many schools would have liked, and the level of need is severe. 

2. It would have been simpler just to give schools the money

For schools with existing relationships with tutoring providers, or recently retired staff keen to return to school, this is understandable.

The challenge is that, until now, tutoring hasn't been available everywhere. In England, the regional disparities are extreme: pupils in the North are half as likely as their peers in London to have accessed tuition. By coordinating provision offered through the NTP, there is an opportunity to redress this inequality. 

Even where tutoring has been available in the past, it has often been hard to identify quality providers. The NTP is attempting to raise the bar in a sector that has often been hard to navigate.

But if schools are already working well with a provider that isn't part of the NTP - or feel that directly employing an extra member of staff would be more effective - then this is, of course, a completely appropriate alternative.

3. The NTP is too complex to navigate

We deliberately set out to create choice for schools - for example, to select online or face-to-face tutoring, with tuition delivered by trained university students and volunteers as well as qualified teachers and professional tutoring. 

The academic mentors pillar of the NTP means that some schools in the most disadvantaged areas are able to access additional support.

However, this choice does create complexity. We've received clear feedback that we need to make it easier for schools to navigate the NTP website, and will be making improvements that enable schools to find the right provider for them quickly and easily, without having to search through a huge quantity of information.

4. Tutoring at home should be prioritised 

The NTP is designed to follow the existing evidence on tutoring as closely as possible. We've prioritised tutoring delivered in school - even if the tutors are elsewhere, delivering the session online - because studies show that tutoring delivered during the school day is likely to have the largest impact. 

It's also the case that home tutoring simply isn't an option for many disadvantaged pupils. According to a recent survey from Teach First, 84 per cent of school leaders in the most deprived communities say their students do not have sufficient access to technology if they are required to study at home. 

However, this year more than any other, past evidence may be an imperfect guide, and it is essential that the NTP is flexible enough to support as many pupils as possible. Regular disruptions or space constraints in schools might mean that, for some pupils, tutoring at home will be better than nothing. 

We haven't been clear enough about what the accepted circumstances are when tutoring at home will be supported - and have now provided sharper information about this on the NTP website.

5. Tutoring isn't a panacea 

Sadly, this is true. Tutoring is one of the most effective interventions available. But it isn't suitable for every child, nor can it compensate on its own for what was missed during lockdown

It is early days for the NTP. We realise we won't get everything right and we would like teacher feedback - whether good or bad - at We want the NTP to support schools to close the attainment gap, this year and beyond.

Robbie Coleman is director of the secretariat of the National Tutoring Programme

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