'Not enough' poorer pupils have tutors, says Oak head

Government is 'pushing' higher targets for disadvantaged children reached by catch-up tutoring, says NTP leader
27th April 2021, 3:39pm
Amy Gibbons


'Not enough' poorer pupils have tutors, says Oak head

Covid Catch-up: 'not Enough' Disadvantaged Pupils Have Tutors Under The National Tutoring Programme, Says Oak National Academy Head

The proportion of government-funded catch-up tutoring going to the poorest pupils is "not high enough", the head of the online Oak National Academy has warned.

And in order for the money invested in the National Tutoring Programme (NTP) to be spent fairly, there needs to be "some pretty robust market intervention" and "quality regulation" of the organisations delivering subsidised sessions, Matt Hood said today.

Speaking at a Westminster Education Forum conference on raising educational attainment in the wake of Covid-19, and the impact of the NTP, the Oak principal said that, with less than half of catch-up tutoring allocated to children in receipt of the pupil premium, "we could do a better job" of targeting support to those who need it most.

Exclusive: Half of catch-up tutoring yet to start

Covid catch-up: Tutors meet no more than a third of demand

Background: Catch-up tutors for only 17 per cent of free school meals pupils

He also said that the NTP "Tuition Partners" - the providers chosen to deliver subsidised sessions - need to scale up their provision, especially in areas where "there is not existing high levels".

Covid catch-up tutoring 'not reaching enough disadvantaged pupils'

Mr Hood made his comments after Becky Francis, chief executive of the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), one of five organisations behind the NTP, indicated that there may be "higher targets" set for the number of disadvantaged pupils reached by the scheme in its second year.

During her speech to the conference, Professor Francis said: "I understand the government is pushing higher targets for disadvantaged pupils in the second year of the NTP, which I think is the right thing."

Lord O'Neill, who was chairing the event, said it was "shocking" to see that more than 50 per cent of those who had benefited from the tutoring programme weren't eligible for the pupil premium.

Taking questions on the issue after her presentation, Professor Francis said: "I think it would be really helpful to have clear targets. I think there is a greater ambition for that in year two, as I see that going forward."

In a speech to the conference later in the day, Mr Hood said he was "supportive" of the approach the EEF had taken to the NTP, and compared the process of "jump-starting" the scheme to the introduction of a more "ubiquitous" early years education system under the previous Labour government.

"I think the great stride...started by the previous Labour government with Sure Start centres, was to make early years education - and we're not there yet, right, there's still further to go - but it is now pretty ubiquitous," he said.

"You wouldn't ever think that sending your children to nursery...is something for rich families and not for poor families. I think that tutoring is right at the start of the same journey.

"I think that pre-pandemic, tutoring was something for wealthy families and not something that was for all families, never mind low-income families. [This could now be] just something that happens for all families.

"And I think the evidence behind tutoring is very good, and therefore it is a great bet to make when it comes to putting resources into the system."

He added: "But I think the thing that is smart is giving signals to the organisations that are in this space that they need to both scale up their provision, and particularly scale it up in areas where there is not existing high levels...there's lots of tutoring in areas where there are grammar schools; there's not lots of tutoring where there aren't any grammar schools.

"And for that money to be spent fairly, I think it does need some pretty robust market intervention, and sort of quality regulation of those organisations.

"Now that does take some of the autonomy away from schools, and I think, now, while we're jump-starting the system, it's absolutely worthwhile, but I think we could do a better job on targeting - 44 per cent for pupils from low-income families is not high enough."

The NTP website states that the programme is "designed specifically to support disadvantaged pupils in England, defined by pupil premium eligibility".

However, schools "have discretion to identify the pupils most likely to benefit from support", it says.

In answer to a written question last week, schools minister Nick Gibb revealed that just 83 per cent of academic mentor placements, which are separate from the "Tuition Partners", have been in schools with a greater than average proportion of children in receipt of the pupil premium.

This means that more than one-sixth of the placements (17 per cent) have gone to those settings with an average, or even lower than average, proportion of children receiving the additional funding.

The NTP and the Department for Education have been approached for comment.

You’ve reached your limit of free articles this month

Register for free to read more

You can read two more articles on Tes for free this month if you register using the button below.

Alternatively, you can subscribe for just £1 per month for the next three months and get:

  • Unlimited access to all Tes magazine content
  • Exclusive subscriber-only articles 
  • Email newsletters

Already registered? Log in

You’ve reached your limit of free articles this month

Subscribe to read more

You can subscribe for just £1 per month for the next three months and get:

  • Unlimited access to all Tes magazine content
  • Exclusive subscriber-only articles 
  • Email newsletters

topics in this article