May 6 / Dr Wayne Harrison

6 million tutoring programmes by 2024 – where is the money tree?

The long-awaited government paper ‘Opportunity for all. Strong schools with great teachers for your child’ (DfE, 2022a) makes bold statements regarding the use of evidence to inform education. “We will permanently embed evidence at the heart of teacher development” and “schools will fund evidence-based, targeted activities to improve the attainment of disadvantaged children, including the most able, from pupil premium funding.” Moving to an evidence based and evidence informed education system is a step in the right direction. The role of the Education Endowment Foundation and the development of the Teaching and Learning Toolkit (EEF, 2022) has made a significant difference in the creation of evidence and how teachers engage with research. 

A key policy in the government paper (DfE, 2022) is the pledge “we will deliver up to 6 million tutoring courses by 2024 with action to cement one to one and small group tuition as a permanent feature in our school system”. It is evident tutoring has become the flagship catch up programme for the current government. The expected recent announcement by the DfE to publish data for parents and Ofsted in the Autumn 2022, has the aim to allow them to check if schools were spending their tutoring funding (Booth, S., 2022). The publication of the data is likely an attempt to improve the take up at schools not currently using the National Tutoring Programme (NTP). Rather than publish the data, would it not be more effective to find out why schools were not using the tutoring funding? 

Until the independent evaluation is released by the National Foundation of Education Research (NFER) for Year 2 of the NTP, we do not yet understand the impact of the intervention. However, the fact that the main delivery partner has changed again indicates that challenges have occurred in delivering tutoring at scale. 

The evidence underpinning the impact of tutoring is robust and it is easy to see why the government initially launched the National Tutoring Programme for catch-up. However, as a long-term intervention this is not sustainable or cost effective. The aim to deliver up to 6 million tutoring programmes is fundamentally floored by the funding arrangements of the NTP. In the next academic year, for each of the three strands of the NTP programme, the government subsidies drop to 60% with schools expected to fund the additional 40% cost of tutoring. In the following academic year, the subsidy drops again to 25% with schools expected to pay 75% of the tutoring costs. Do we assume that subsidies then stop, and schools are expected to fund 100% of the tutoring to fulfil the governments aim to cement one to one and small group tuition as a permanent feature in our education system?

One avenue for the funding I expect the government will suggest schools use to fund the tutoring initiative is the pupil premium. From September 2022, all schools are required ensure that pupil premium funding spending aligns with the ‘menu of choices’ outlined by the DfE guidance (DfE, 2022b). Consequently, schools are limited to five targeted interventional strategies including one to one and small group tuition. The pupil premium guidance for school leaders highlights the importance of a multi-year approach to pupil premium planning over three years. Again, this seems a logical approach to allow longer term planning to deliver and evaluate the impact of interventions. 

An important point to note in the pupil premium guidance is the DfE expects school leaders to “consider how to be an effective consumer and challenge evidence claims made by external providers” and “weigh up expected impact of any outcome against the cost of implementing it” (DfE, 2022b). As a school leader, planning the use of their pupil premium budget for the next three academic years using the menu of choices outlined in the guidance, does one to one or targeted small group tutoring meet these criteria?

How robust is the evidence so far on the impact of the NTP and is this a cost-effective approach when the subsidies are removed? We will not know how effective the NTP has been in Year 2 until the independent evaluation is published, but we do know that the cost of tutoring will increase as subsidies are reduced. 

When compared against other evidence informed interventions, included in the ‘menu of choices’, does the expected impact of tutoring out-weigh the cost of implementing it, or can other evidence-based strategies be more cost effective as a catch-up strategy. 

For example, peer tutoring is included in the menu of choices and has the potential to impact both the tutees and tutors delivering the intervention, providing additional wider benefits alongside attainment. The EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit (EEF, 2022) indicates that peer tutoring has the potential to be a high impact, low-cost intervention that is based on robust research evidence. 

Consequently, publishing the data on the uptake and usage of tutoring for parents and Ofsted before finding out why some schools have not engaged in the programme seems very short-sighted. These schools may just be following the DfE’s own guidance and weighing up the expected impact of the intervention against the cost of implementing it over a three-year period. 

References:

Booth, S., (2022) https://schoolsweek.co.uk/ministers-plan-to-name-and-shame-schools-not-doing-tutoring/

DfE (2022a) Opportunity for all. Strong schools with great teachers for your child. DfE

DfE (2022b) Using pupil premium: guidance for school leaders. DfE

EEF (2022) https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/education-evidence/teaching-learning-toolkit

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