More than four in five heads in the North East are not using the government's catch-up tutoring scheme, new research suggests.
Of the 135 school leaders who responded to a survey by the Schools North East network, 19 per cent said they had participated in the National Tutoring Programme (NTP), while 81 per cent said they had not.
And of those leaders who had used the scheme, nearly a third (31 per cent) said they were not sure if they would continue to participate.
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The survey of primaries and secondaries, conducted on 18 January, sheds new light on the North-South divide in tutoring take-up.
Covid catch-up: Northern schools less likely to sign up to the NTP
Earlier this week, a Department for Education official revealed that Northern areas are less likely to sign up for the NTP.
In a meeting of the Commons' Education Select Committee, the DfE's qualifications director, Graham Archer, highlighted that, while the Covid premium was on a per-pupil basis across all schools "the National Tutoring Programme is an application-based programme".
"We are seeing a slightly slower take-up in areas of the country where tutoring is seen as a less normal part of academic life, so it is slower to take up in the North essentially than in the South," he added.
"We are working closely with tutoring partners in those areas, with schools and multi-academy trusts and local authorities in those areas, and using our regional teams to push hard the message of the benefits of tutoring to those pupils."
On Wednesday, education secretary Gavin Williamson said 120,000 children had been reached by the NTP to date. But the government is yet to provide a regional breakdown of the number of pupils who have benefited from the scheme.
And in many cases, even those schools choosing to engage have seen tutoring put "on hold" during the national lockdown.
Asked as part of the survey how the latest lockdown restrictions had impacted on their engagement with the NTP, heads cited problems with both access and tutor supply.
One school leader said the catch-up tutoring had been "put on hold because many of the pupils are at home". They added that it was "not a priority at the minute".
Another said they "need to set up remote access", and another said that sessions had been "postponed" for the time being.
On tutor supply, one head said the scheme had been a "shambles", adding: "NTP could not match us with suitable mentors."
Another said: "They didn't have enough staff to support our request for an academic mentor."
And a third school leader said: "I had applied for an academic mentor – I am still awaiting a match."
An NTP spokesperson said: "While there is some regional variation, all regions of England have now reached at least 50 per cent of their annual targets for schools reached, and are on track to reach them by the end of the year.
"Thousands of pupils across the North East are already enrolled with an approved NTP Tuition Partner, receiving support as they work to recover from the negative impact of the pandemic on their learning.
"In total, 20 approved NTP Tuition Partners are working with schools in the North East, offering flexible online and face-to-face support to schools."
The DfE has been approached for comment.