Demand for subsidised catch-up tutoring from some schools is already outstripping forecasts by more than 500 per cent, a provider has warned.
The tuition company TLC LIVE, one of the 32 providers selected to deliver external subsidised Covid catch-up tutoring to pupils in a £76 million government-funded scheme, told Tes that the cash will "almost certainly need to be increased in 2021", given "the scale of the task at hand".
Simon Barnes, a former teacher and founder of TLC LIVE, said that in the first 24 hours since the scheme went live some schools have sought support for more than 100 pupils – outstripping expectations by between 500 and 900 per cent.
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"When we applied to become an NTP [National Tutoring Programme] Tuition Partner we were estimating each school would be looking for support with around 10 to 15 disadvantaged pupils, but in the first 24 hours we've had schools contacting us requesting support for over 100 pupils in some instances," he said.
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"We're also getting a lot of schools telling us they’re keen to use qualified teachers, which isn't that surprising given the scale of the task at hand – the £76 million allocated to fund tuition partners like TLC LIVE, which is very welcome, will almost certainly need to be increased in 2021."
The Department for Education's £76 million Tuition Partners scheme allows schools to purchase subsidised external tutoring for disadvantaged pupils whose education has been disrupted.
It has the biggest slice of school 5-16 funding in the National Tutoring Programme, which in June the DfE said was designed to reach "up to 2 million of England's most disadvantaged children".
But last week Tes revealed that there is only enough money for a small fraction of those children to get the subsidised tutoring.
An NTP spokesperson said: "We've been really pleased with the response from schools since launch. We expect that tens of thousands will be enrolled in the first six weeks, with provision increasing further after Christmas. The level of interest in the programme so far has been in line with our projections.
"But it's impossible to extrapolate precise numbers so early after launch from individual providers. We hope to be able to share figures on how many schools and pupils have enrolled in the coming weeks."
Education secretary Gavin Williamson said: "We need to do everything in our power to help pupils make up for any lost time, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
"Tutoring provides tailored teaching support to individual pupils, and can be transformational in boosting academic progress. This is about levelling up those opportunities across the country and I urge schools to make the most of this subsidised scheme."