Exclusive: £350m Covid tutoring promise broken by DfE

DfE confirms £350 million assigned for one-year scheme will in fact cover two years of catch-up tutoring

Amy Gibbons

Locked piggy bank

The government has admitted it is breaking its pledge to invest £350 million in catch-up tutoring for this academic year.

When the National Tutoring Programme (NTP) was announced in June, the government said the £350 million it had assigned to fund the scheme would "increase access to high-quality tuition for the most disadvantaged young people over the 2020-21 academic year".

But the Department for Education (DfE) has now confirmed to Tes that this money will cover two years of tutoring, not one.

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The department said the NTP had been extended for at least another year and it was correct to say that the £350 million covered the full two years of the programme.

The news comes a month after Tes revealed that the government had refused to account for £143 million of its Covid catch-up tutoring fund.

At the time, the DfE would not say whether it was sticking by its original pledge for the money – amounting to 40 per cent of the whole tutoring fund – to benefit pupils this academic year.

Wes Streeting, Labour's shadow schools minister, said: "Yet again this government is failing to deliver on its promises, which will exacerbate an attainment gap that was widening even before the pandemic.

"Urgent investment is needed in catch-up learning, alongside support to keep schools open and ensure children self-isolating have access to laptops to enable them to learn remotely.

"The Conservatives' approach is holding children's education back and without urgent action, children's learning will be permanently damaged by this pandemic."

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "The National Tutoring Programme seems to have morphed from being a catch-up programme to being a longer-term project.

"The problem is that it was never going to be possible to turn it around early in the autumn term because of the practical challenges involved in setting up a scheme like this from scratch.

"The fact that it has only become available more recently means many schools will have already put in place their catch-up plans before that happened and so it is now of limited usefulness as a catch-up option.

"Taking a longer-term approach may be useful to a certain extent, but it would have made more sense to have simply given the money to schools directly at the outset, given that the immediate priority should be catch-up support."

Sarah Mulholland, head of policy at the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: "Now that the £350 million has to stretch to two years instead of one, it will be a much harder task for the thousands of children who have fallen behind during Covid to catch up with their peers."

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Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @tweetsbyames

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