Friday Five: tutoring, youth work in schools, child poverty, eating disorders during Covid, and teacher recruitment and retention


23rd June 2023

1. School leaders think NTP is helping disadvantaged students but it is too costly- a survey by NFER shows

The National Foundation for Education Research (NFER) surveyed a representative sample of 439 school leaders from primary and secondary schools in England to gather their views on the effectiveness of the National Tutoring Programme (NTP) – a scheme launched in 2020-2021. 

The survey shows that 

  • Nearly two-thirds (65%) of the 52% of senior leaders currently using the NTP are planning to continue using it in the 2023-2024 academic year. 
  • Three-quarters (76%) of senior leaders currently using the NTP believe it is improving the attainment of disadvantaged pupils at their school. 
  • 68% of school leaders reported being able to hire or use additional staff for tutoring, but nearly half (47%) reported that their school offers tutoring during normal lesson times. This means that pupils receiving tutoring in this way are missing other lessons to attend tutoring sessions and that the additional benefit the programme is offering is potentially reduced. 
  • The views on the cost-effectiveness of the programme are split; 42% believe that it is cost-effective and 45% do not. 58% of the school leaders surveyed do not think tutoring is a long-term solution to closing the attainment gap for disadvantaged pupils. 

These results chime with our ‘Levelling Up Tutoring’ report, which found a strong appetite for the NTP’s continuation but also major concerns about its design and delivery. CfEY’s Head of Policy, Baz Ramaiah, recently discussed these issues with the BBC on TV and radio.

The NFER’s report makes several recommendations and calls on the government to: explore ways of long-term funding that can allow tutoring to become embedded in schools, provide schools with more notice about funding changes to allow for forward planning, review and reduce the administrative requirements for schools to access the programme, work with schools and tutoring organisations to understand how best to recruit and retain tutors, and to undertake further research to evaluate the effectiveness of different aspects of the scheme.

Read the full NFER report here. 

2. NYA report gathers evidence on effective youth work in schools

In this review report, the National Youth Agency (NYA) explores how the current and future needs of young people can be met through youth work with secondary schools (including Alternative Provision, SEND and 16 to 18 colleges). Evidence is gathered through an expert-led inquiry along with a survey of schools and youth work organisations, and interviews with young people. The review situates itself in the context of deteriorating mental health and wellbeing of young people, decline in enjoyment and feeling of safety in schools, and growing burden on the school staff to address social-emotional needs of their pupils. Some of the key ways, outlined in this report, in which youth work can help young people in schools are: 

  • Education and wellbeing: as youth workers provide support with vocational learning, and alternative provision, as well as help with socio-emotional topics like self-regulation, relationships and identity
  • School absenteeism: can be addressed as youth workers help young people develop positive relationships with school
  • Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme: supports young people facing poverty and hunger, and sustains their interest in learning during the holidays
  • Enrichment: or extra-curricular learning activities are offered through school-youth organisation partnerships
  • Local youth partnerships and multiagency working: showcase joined-up approach along with the local authorities that can offer a diverse range of learning experiences to young people in a collaborative way 

The report calls on the national government to demonstrate clear leadership and strategy for youth work, provide stable and joined-up funding, offer elective premiums to pupils that can be used for enrichment, as well as to improve CPD for school staff and teachers, and provide opportunities for transition from teaching to youth work, among other recommendations.

At CfEY, we’re excited to be working with UK Youth on new research concerning education and enrichment. The research, commissioned by NCS and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, will explore what works to strengthen collaboration and coordination between the education and youth sectors to increase young people’s access to quality enrichment and non-formal learning opportunities.

Read the NYA report here. 

3. New CPAG research reveals poverty’s threat to childhood

A new report from Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) reveals worrying statistics about poverty’s impact on children. It shows how parents and children worry about getting by and have to make tough decisions about what children can go without. The report is based on a survey of 1,146 UK adults in receipt of means-tested benefits and 332 children aged 14-17-year-olds in or at risk of being in child poverty. 

Two-thirds of children in the survey worried about their family not having enough money and over two-thirds realised their parents realise their parents are trying to hide how stressful things are for them. Over half of parents are worried about what a lack of money might mean for their children’s mental health (56%) and physical health (51%).

Concerningly, almost a third of parents (30%) report their children getting a poor night’s sleep at least once a week due to family budgets. This could have significant consequences for children’s ability to concentrate and fully participate in school, impacting their learning and threatening to further entrench educational inequalities. 

CPAG’s survey also notes that many parents and children felt they missed out on opportunities like days out (76% parents, 78% children), family holidays (72%/72%), and extra-curricular activities (70%/65%). This chimes with CfEY’s work with Parentkind, in which 35% of parents of pupils eligible for FSM reported costs being a barrier to supporting their child’s learning outside school.

Read CPAG’s research here.

4. Substantial increase in eating disorders and self-harm among teenage girls during Covid

Research published in The Lancet, analyses primary healthcare records of over 9 million patients between the ages of 10 and 24, to find that incident rates of eating disorders and self-harm among girls were higher than expected between March 2020 and 2022. The estimated increases in the incidence of these mental health conditions among girls aged 13-16 years were largely attributable to increases within less deprived communities. 

A BBC article covering the research findings includes interviews with young women, who attribute their own struggles with eating disorders to a sense of ‘lack of control’ over their own lives during the lockdown and a feeling that “the only thing we could control was what you ate and how you looked- so that’s what I chose to focus on”. A 19-year old girl interviewed about the topic corroborates what the large-scale studies show with her personal experiences as she says, “I don’t know a single girl or female friend who hasn’t had some sort of struggle with eating.”

The authors of the report advocate for early identification of mental health difficulties and timely access to treatments to prevent exacerbation of existing conditions. They recommended targeted interventions for young people that specifically reduce their risk of self-harm and eating disorders and that improve mental health overall. They argue that sufficient support from primary care and mental health services must be provided to meet the needs of the growing number of children and young people presenting to services. 

Read the complete research paper here.

5. Education Select Committee holds first session of inquiry into teacher recruitment and retention

On Tuesday, the Education Select Committee held the first session of its inquiry into teacher recruitment and retention, with various education experts and union reps. As covered in FE Week, one of the issues raised was the £8,000 pay gap between teachers in colleges and those in schools.

Jenny Sherrard of the UCU explained that this gap has been partly caused by a lack of collective bargaining. Where, The School Teacher Pay Review Body takes evidence from unions and employers, before making recommendations to ministers, who make a decision that is binding on schools, there is no national framework for teacher pay in colleges. Sherrard suggested one workaround here could be to have FE reps observing school pay negotiations, so that the two are seen as interlinked.

Elsewhere, Julie McCulloch, of ASCL, explained that wages were affecting recruitment in sectors with occupational specialisms, such as engineering and maths, where the opportunity costs of moving into teaching are particularly high. While the government has increased FE teacher training bursaries (with £29,000 available in maths, science, engineering and computing, for instance), this is undermined by low starting salaries.

With student numbers on the rise and the government ambitious about scaling up T-Levels, the current staff recruitment and retention context is particularly concerning. As Sherrard noted at the inquiry: “We are rapidly heading towards a very severe crisis if we cannot address the issues with recruitment and retainment by improving pay and addressing workload”.

As our Head of Policy, Baz Ramaiah noted on the Evening Standard podcast, teachers have experienced significant real terms pay cuts, made worse by recent levels of inflation. If the government do not offer a substantial, funded pay-rise, recruitment and retention issues are likely to persist across the school system, impacting teacher supply and therefore the quality of education available to children and young people.

Read the FE Week coverage of the inquiry session here.

That’s all for this week. Please do share this blog if you found it useful and follow @Barristotle and @billyhubt for further commentary. You can keep up to date with all things CfEY through our our News and Events page and by signing up to our mailing list.