The Future of Tutoring – 7 Key Questions That We Need Your Help Answering


13th April 2022

Recent announcements by the government makes one thing very clear. The third year of the National Tutoring Programme will look very different to the first and second.

But the real question is how different should tutoring in schools look like after the National Tutoring Programme (NTP)?

Our latest research sets out to answer this question. As described in our initial briefing, we embarked on this research with the aim of understanding how tutoring can be a central plank in the government’s plans to close the achievement gap. We’ve just completed the first phase of this work which involved speaking to experts in education policy and tutoring to help define the scope of our study. Based on this we’ve developed seven questions about the future of tutoring which we believe will provide useful insight into the future of in-school tutoring beyond the NTP, and more immediately as the programme develops.

If you’re a school or trust leader who’d like to help us answer the below questions and inform the future of tutoring policy, please take 10 mins to complete our short survey here

Seven key questions about tutoring

1. How do we increase the uptake of tutoring among schools who have not accessed it or have had negative experience so far?

The NTP has been beset by uneven uptake across the country. This may sound surprising given the financial incentives offered to participate in the programme and strong evidence base supporting the impact of tutoring. We want to understand the reasons why schools have chosen not to engage with the programme, and why those that have engaged with the NTP now have concerns about continuing.

2. How can the NTP, while delivering at scale, focus on addressing disadvantage and closing the attainment gap(s) for learners in most need of catch up??

Scaling up educational programmes entails increasing the complexity of their delivery. The NTP is an unusually bold and ambitious programme in its scale. By consequence, it has encountered a plethora of delivery challenges that have frequently risked diluting its impact on disadvantaged pupils. We want to understand these delivery challenges and how they can be mitigated whilst ensuring disadvantaged learners remain the priority.

From these insights, we plan to develop pathways for increasing the number of disadvantaged young people accessing and benefiting from tutoring.

3. How can we develop a skilled, diverse tutoring workforce that can allow all learners to access high quality tutoring?

Tutoring is only ever as good as the tutor who delivers it. If we want tutoring to have the impact on disadvantaged students that the evidence suggests it can, then we need world class tutors. We want to understand how to develop tutors to this standard at a national scale, and consider the systems that need to be in place to ensure this quality of tutors can be sustained long into the future.

4. When delivering and supporting tutoring at scale, how do we give schools autonomy whilst  guaranteeing quality?

Schools are increasingly being funded  directly to manage and procure their tutoring provision. This is a positive development, but what is needed to assure quality and impact of tutoring? Agency over decision-making is exciting and well-intentioned, but schools need the structures and insights to exercise this agency effectively. We want to identify what those structures are and how they can be best designed to guide schools while retaining their autonomy.

5. How can data collection processes be designed to be simple and user-friendly while providing insights that are useful for adapting large-scale education programmes?

All policy programmes require careful monitoring and evaluation. This isn’t just about providing an audit trail for how public finances are spent. It’s also about supplying insights that can be used to improve a programme. But conducting such research depends on the collection of large volumes of data. We want to investigate how these data collection processes can be made as effortless as possible while producing high-quality insight for effective evaluation.

6. How should the funding model for a new tutoring programme evolve to reflect schools’ preferences and strategies towards their spending?

Supporting the long-term use of tutoring by schools will likely require further funding. We’re speaking to trust and school leaders to understand the best way for them to receive this funding without creating needless administrative overhead.

7. How can tutoring align with plans for the education sector outlined in the Schools White Paper, as well as wider DfE policy? (e.g. Maths Hubs, National Professional Qualifications, Early Career Framework)

If tutoring is to have a long-term future in the UK, it’ll need to fit alongside other policy programmes that are being delivered in schools. We want to understand what this coherence might look like and how it might be used to increase the impact of tutoring itself.

What are our next steps towards the future of tutoring?

Recent activity makes it clear that the government is keen to ensure the NTP has as much impact as possible and is structured in a way that works for schools. We also know that the government has an ambitious vision for the future of tutoring in our education system.

At such a time, its more important than ever to be asking questions about the short and long term future for tutoring. If you think you’d be able to help us answer some of them by completing a short survey, please follow this link here. With the right insights, we can help ensure a future where tutoring transforms educational outcomes, particularly for the most disadvantaged pupils in the country.