National Tutoring Programme: 5 things we learned today

MPs told government won't fulfil 'levelling up' promises if money is not targeted to disadvantaged areas
8th December 2021, 12:54pm
Catherine Lough

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National Tutoring Programme: 5 things we learned today

https://www.tes.com/magazine/news/general/national-tutoring-programme-5-things-we-learned-today
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The government's education catch-up plans came under heavy scrutiny by MPs at the Commons' Education Select Committee today.

Here were the five main points raised at today's session:

1. Randstad's contract branded a 'false economy'

Nick Bent, chief executive of the Tutor Trust, one of the tuition partners involved with the National Tutoring Programme (NTP), told MPs that awarding the contract to Randstad this year was a "false economy", adding that he and other tuition partners would be speaking to education secretary Nadhim Zahawi in the new year to discuss the possibility of handing the contract over to a new group of non-profit providers.

Mr Bent said that the tuition partners had been left frustrated by problems with the NTP's online hub and a lack of marketing to schools.

"There is serious talk going on at the moment about co-creating a new organisation, a not-for-profit entity, that could potentially take over the running of the NTP from September 1 2022," he said.

2. NTP told not to 'overclaim' 

Professor Becky Francis, chief executive officer of the Education Endowment Foundation, shared some initial findings from a quick review of the programme in its first year and said it was important that the NTP did not "overclaim" on what it could achieve.

"So some of the lessons that we learned from Year 1 of NTP delivery were, first of all, keep evidence at the core of what you do, of course, but clarity on the essential parts of the programme - what's flexible and what isn't - is really important," she said.

She also said it was important for "stakeholders" to be involved in the design of the programme.

"I think that's something that we've learned from and would need to do better were we to do it again, having gone from that standing start," she said.

She added: "Thirdly take a long-term view and to support any delivery organisations to improve, even if the benefits of that are seen in the longer term.

"Next, manage expectations of what the programme can achieve, careful not to overclaim and also make sure that the programme works alongside other initiatives in the sector, and finally...data is key - defining the information [that] is vital to collect and then supporting delivery organisations to provide that, and use it to feedback and improve the delivery."

3. Share number of disadvantaged pupils on the programme, DfE told

Mr Bent said that it would be "great" to see Department for Education figures on the proportion of pupils enrolled in the NTP in opportunity areas.

He added: "It would be good to hear from the DfE what the current percentage of pupil premium pupils enrolled in the NTP is so far this term because they have not shared those figures with us yet."

"The main problem we've got is just the low raw number of pupils who have been enrolled at all," he said.

4. Warning against 'race to the bottom'

Professor Francis warned against disadvantaged pupils being given the lowest quality recovery support if they are taken outside of the classroom.

She said: "What we mustn't see and what we must avoid is a sort of race to the bottom, where it's socially disadvantaged pupils that get the lowest-quality support, particularly if kids are being taken out of the classroom, because ultimately it's high-quality teaching and tuition that makes the biggest impact."

5. Funding should go to the most disadvantaged areas

David Laws, executive chair of the Education Policy Institute, said £4.9 billion over four years sounds like "quite a lot of money" but highlighted that this was in the context of a £50 billion schools budget.

He said: "I think our big worry is, are the schools in the areas most impacted by Covid, with the pupils most impacted, being allocated enough money to do the catch-up job, and our concern is that they're not."

The money has to "not just go to pupil premium pupils", he said, but to "those parts of the country that are most disadvantaged, that are the furthest behind".

He added: "If the government can't crack that, then its legacy on education could be precisely the opposite of the levelling-up aspiration that the government rightly has."

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