The government has been accused of “squeezing out” skilled supply teachers by offering Covid catch-up tutoring “on the cheap”.
The NASUWT teachers’ union is warning that the flagship National Tutoring Programme (NTP) risks “further entrenching downward pressure on rates of pay”, as it gives no “guarantees on remuneration or the qualifications” of its tutors.
The union says this could end up “undermining employment opportunities” for supply teachers, who have a “wealth of experience and knowledge” to offer.
It was announced in June that the NTP would be operated by multinational outsourcing company Randstad from the start of the 2021-22 academic year, with support from the charity Teach First.
The Department for Education (DfE) said the NTP would continue to operate both the existing tuition partners and academic mentors programmes.
The former involves pairing pupils up with approved providers to offer subsidised catch-up sessions. These may be existing tutoring providers who have experience working with schools, or organisations such as charities, local authorities or universities that have designed a new programme to meet the NTP standards.
The latter saw Teach First given £6.44 million to recruit and train mentors to work in primary and secondary schools to provide one-to-one and small-group support. All mentors earn a salary of up to £19,000.
Schools have separately been allocated funds to deliver their own tuition using new or existing staff.
The DfE set its sights on significantly increasing the NTP’s reach in the first year with the new firm in charge.
But NASUWT is now accusing the government of offering sessions “on the cheap”.
Patrick Roach, NASUWT general secretary, said: “We need a teacher-led education recovery and renewal in order to secure the best outcomes for children and young people from the disruption of the past 18 months.
“Supply teachers, with their wealth of experience and knowledge, have enormous potential to successfully help children and young people catch up and recover their learning, and yet ministers are encouraging schools to make use of a tutoring programme which gives no guarantees that children will be taught by qualified teachers or over the pay those tutors will receive.
“Children and young people deserve better than catch-up on the cheap. Ministers can and should take action to ensure that all tutors are fully qualified and remunerated at the commensurate rate on the national pay scale, and that supply teachers are part of the plan for education recovery.”
Jane Peckham, NASUWT deputy general secretary, added: "Ministers have serially failed to take action to address the exploitative practices of many supply teacher agencies, which often fail to provide supply teachers with the pay rates and contractual rights they are entitled to.
“During the pandemic, many supply teachers have been hit with a double blow of a lack of employment opportunities and access to furlough pay.
“Without guarantees on remuneration or the qualifications of its personnel, the NTP risks further entrenching downward pressure on rates of pay and undermining employment opportunities for supply teachers.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “There are no pay grades for the National Tutoring Programme and no reason for it to have a negative impact on supply teachers.
"The National Tutoring Programme provides another employment opportunity for supply teachers, who can apply to work as an academic mentor, with a tuition partner or be paid as part of the funding received through school-led tutoring.”
Randstad has been approached for comment.