Around one third of the £594 million allocated to the National Tutoring Programme (NTP) to help children catch up after Covid lockdowns has gone unspent, according to a BBC Freedom of Information request. The scheme, launched in November 2020, provides primary and secondary schools with funding to subsidise tutoring, but some teachers say they cannot afford to top up the government money from their own budgets.
The latest Department for Education (DfE) data estimates that 66% of schools in England have participated in the NTP this academic year, with London having the highest rates of participation at 73%. The lowest is seen in the North East, at 62%. In the 21-22 academic year, 87% of schools in England used the scheme.
The NTP covered 75% of costs for school-led tutoring in the 21-22 academic year, dropping to 60% this year and planned to drop to 25% for the 2023-24 academic year. Dr Rebecca Montacute, head of research and policy at education charity Sutton Trust, said reducing the subsidy could mean schools either “won’t want to or won’t be able to” use the programme.
The government had initially aimed for 65% of NTP tuition go to disadvantaged pupils. During the 21-22 academic year, 47% of the tuition did. Bridget Phillipson MP, Labour’s shadow education secretary, called the scheme a “shocking failure”, saying the government had failed children throughout the pandemic and was failing to prioritise their futures now. Lib Dem education spokesperson Munira Wilson MP said: “How can the government claim to be prioritising levelling up while leaving the most disadvantaged children behind?”
Darren Morgan, head teacher of Manchester’s Kings Road Primary, said when the government moved to a more school-based approach it was “amazing”. His pupils have made lots of progress thanks to the NTP but he understands why others have not used it due to budget constraints. Despite being a fan of the scheme, he said it was unlikely he can afford to continue it as it would cost his school an extra £35,000 from September when the subsidy falls to 25%.
Schools Minister Nick Gibb said the programme had delivered tutoring at unprecedented scale and “millions of children have benefited”. He urged eligible schools to take advantage of the scheme this term to provide pupils who need additional help with one-to-one or small group tuition.
The National Tutoring Programme has been met with mixed reviews since its launch in November 2020. While some schools have seen success with it, others have not been able to make use of it due to budget constraints. The government had initially aimed for 65% of NTP tuition go to disadvantaged pupils, but only 47% did during the 21-22 academic year. This has led Labour and Lib Dem MPs to call the scheme a “shocking failure” and question how the government can claim to be prioritising levelling up while leaving the most disadvantaged children behind. Schools Minister Nick Gibb said millions of children have benefited from the programme, but warned that participation could drop when the subsidy falls to 25% in September.