This morning the government announced its brand new £350 million tutoring scheme, designed to tackle the effects of the pandemic on the most disadvantaged children in our society.
While the government's own briefing on the National Tutoring Programme (NTP) was somewhat lacking in detail, the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) – which created the scheme in partnership with The Sutton Trust and others – has issued guidance on who will be able to access the extra support, and how the funding will work.
Tes also spoke yesterday with two experts who advised the Department for Education on the plans: John Nichols, vice-president of The Tutors' Association (TTA), and Lee Elliot Major, professor of social mobility at the University of Exeter.
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The coronavirus schools catch-up scheme: Who will the NTP cover?
The government says the NTP will be for disadvantaged children.
The TTA told Tes that the scheme will initially target pupil premium children specifically.
This is confirmed in guidance from the EEF, which states: "The NTP will be targeted to reach disadvantaged pupils eligible for the pupil premium.
"However, teachers and school leaders will be able to exercise their professional judgement to determine if tutoring is the right support for each pupil."
Mr Nichols also told Tes that he believes the scheme will cover pupils in Year 6 and Years 10 and 11 (upper primary and upper secondary).
However, he acknowledged that this had not been confirmed, and the EEF has said: "The NTP is for pupils in England. State-maintained primary and secondary schools in England will be able to access it and use as best fits the needs of their pupils."
What will the funding cover?
The EEF says it is hoped the scheme will run over two years. However, after initially describing it as a "multi-year" programme, the DfE now says the NTP will run "over the 2020-21 academic year" – and does not give any indication of whether it will continue after that.
Mr Nichols said the government will be focusing the majority of its cash on delivering tutoring in English, maths and possibly science.
He also believes the majority of provision (particularly in rural areas) will be delivered online in the first instance.
Mr Nichols said the TTA does not want a top-down approach when it comes to curriculum expectations. He said discussions about learning should be between tutors and schools.
If the government were to set out a rigid national curriculum for the catch-up scheme (ie, asking tutors to cover certain content at certain times), Mr Nichols said this would be "chaos".
Where will the tutors come from?
Mr Nichols said the government had not given the TTA any indication of how many tutors it will require to run the scheme.
The general consensus appears to be that the existing supply is likely to meet much of the demand, and if more tutors are needed, providers are quite capable of scaling up their services.
Professor Elliot Major prepared a briefing paper on the programme which was considered by the DfE.
He told Tes he was more concerned about quality than quantity of tutors for the scheme.
The EEF says the NTP will consist of two pillars: NTP Partners and NTP Coaches.
Through NTP Partners, schools will be able to access "heavily subsided tutoring" from a vetted list of tuition providers.
"These organisations – who will all be subject to quality, safeguarding and evaluation standards – will be given support and funding to reach as many disadvantaged pupils as possible," the EEF says.
The second pillar of the scheme, NTP Coaches, will be made up of trained graduates employed by schools in the most disadvantaged areas.
They will provide "intensive catch-up support" for pupils in need.
"These graduates will not all be qualified teachers, but may be working towards an initial teacher training qualification," the EEF says.
"They will receive some initial training, and then be managed by their school."
In terms of demand for tutors over the course of the crisis so far, Mr Nichols said it's been a really mixed picture. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest things have gone in both directions.
This is because there may have been an increase in uptake in some cases, but demand may have fallen in others due to exams being cancelled.
How does the funding work?
The EEF has said schools will be provided with "heavily subsidised tuition" from an approved list of vetted tuition providers, who will themselves be subsidised and supported to ensure they can "reach many more disadvantaged pupils".
Schools will have to fork out at least 25 per cent of the costs, as the scheme will only be subsidised by up to 75 per cent.
This could mean schools pay £12 for a session that would usually cost £50, for example.
The EEF says the majority of funds will come from the government, but resources are also being provided by the founding organisations and philanthropic and corporate partners.
How will it be standardised?
There are no legal requirements to become a private tutor in the UK, but having a DBS check is compulsory with most tutoring agencies and professional associations and is obviously strongly recommended.
According to the EEF, the NTP will give schools access to an approved list of vetted tuition providers.
It says the NTP will run "open funding calls", and providers will be selected based on "how closely their delivery currently fits with, or could be developed to fit with, the existing evidence base, as well as other criteria around quality and scalability".
The guidance adds: "Indicative indicators of quality include tutor training, safeguarding and impact monitoring."
Mr Nichols told Tes he believes the DfE will need to enforce minimum standards across the board, and Professor Elliot Major said a kind of central vetting process will be necessary for safeguarding reasons.