Levelling Up Tutoring – How can tutoring best contribute to closing England’s attainment gap in schools by 2030?
In partnership with Action Tutoring, Third Space Learning and White Rose Maths
17th June 2022
The Centre for Education and Youth are excited to announce the launch of our hotly anticipated report, ‘Levelling Up Tutoring – How can tutoring best contribute to closing England’s attainment gap in schools by 2030?‘
The report focuses on the government’s flagship covid recovery policy – The National Tutoring Programme (NTP). Collecting evidence on schools’, tuition providers’ and policy experts’ experiences of and attitudes towards the programme, the report offers highly practical recommendations for how the NTP can improve its uptake from schools and its impact. The report also takes a more ambitious look at how policymakers, tuition providers and schools can work together to use tutoring as part of a long-term strategy to close the attainment gap.
The National Tutoring Programme
One-to-one and small-group tutoring enjoy a strong evidence base showing their effectiveness at improving academic outcomes. Because of this, the Department for Education decided to make tutoring the central plank in its plan for recovering lost learning from covid. This took the form of The National Tutoring Programme (NTP), launched in November 2020.
The NTP is an ambitious programme, with highly aspirational targets. . To date, the programme has reached 1.5 million young people, with nearly half of them considered economically disadvantaged. However, it is currently 25% short of its two million target for this academic year, and far from its overall goal to deliver six million courses by 2024.
Moreover, since inception, the programme has been beset by an unusually level of public criticism. This criticism has focussed on the planning, delivery and procurement process surrounding the programme.
All of this means that the NTP currently sits at a crossroads. If it continues as it is, then it will prove to be a monumental waste of public money that puts schools off an effective intervention such as tutoring for a generation. However, changes to the programme could allow it to realise its ambitious promise. We set out to produce an evidence-based overview of what these changes should be.The NTP currently sits at a crossroads. If it continues as it is, it will prove to be a huge waste of public money that puts schools off an effective intervention such as tutoring for a generation. However, changes to the programme could… Click To Tweet
‘Levelling Up Tutoring’ draws on the findings of a rapid mixed methods approach to data collection, conducted between March and May 2022. This included:
- Interviews with five senior figures with an existing knowledge of the NTP, including three who are presently senior in policymaking at the DfE.
- Interviews with a further 22 stakeholders, including school and trust leaders, tuition providers of varying size, researchers, representatives from professional bodies and unions, and figures working in policy (including internationally).
- Thematic analysis of interview data to identify common experiences and attitudes.
- A survey designed for and administered to trust and school leaders working in England, which gathered 185 responses between April and May 2022.
- Development of a set of recommendations for improving the NTP and advancing the tutoring in schools agenda.
We also worked with two roundtables of experts in the world of tutoring and education policy to shape our longlist of recommendations. We are grateful to following leaders in the education space for participating in these sessions:
- Ben Gadsby – Head of Policy and Research, Impetus
- Chris Zarraga – Director, Schools North East
- Ian Taylor – Head of School Performance, Academies Enterprise Trust
- Julie McCulloch – Director of Policy, Association of School and College Leaders
- Murray Morrison – Chief Executive Officer, Tassomai
- Natalie Perera – Chief Executive Officer, Education Policy Institute
- Nick Brook – Deputy General Secretary, National Association of Head Teachers
- Russell Hobby – Chief Executive Officer, Teach First
- Samuel Skerritt – Head of Policy, Confederation of School Trusts
- Tom Richmond – Director, EDSK
- Yalinie Vigneswaran – Programme Director, Education Development Trust
Headline from our findings include:
1. Almost all interviewees and survey respondents had some positive perceptions about the NTP, especially its ambition, scale and grounding in evidence. Of the survey respondents, 70% told us that they believe the NTP should continue for at least a year longer than is currently planned. However, 50% also said they think the programme needs to be radically or significantly redesigned.
2. Many school and trust leaders had negative perceptions of the NTP before enrolling, with some believing it was “more effort than it’s worth to apply for”, and “corporate”. Others had heard that enrolment was a “bureaucratic nightmare”.
3. The range of funding pillars and division of labour between delivery partners and tuition partners created much confusion and a high decision load for schools and tutoring partners participating in the NTP. This remains a barrier to participation.
4. Buy-in from key stakeholders, such as parents and teachers, was reported to be low, especially in certain parts of England such as the
North East. The administrative burden associated with the NTP was large for both tuition partners and schools, especially in Year 2 of the programme. This made engagement with the programme highly capacity-draining.
5. Tutor quality was reported to be highly variable, with many suggesting that a focus on quality was lost in Year 2 of the programme. Just under a third of survey respondents believed that the quality of tutors on the NTP needs to be improved.Tutor quality was reported to be highly variable, with many suggesting that a focus on quality was lost in Year 2 of the programme. Just under a third of survey respondents believed that the quality of tutors on the NTP needs to be improved Click To Tweet
6. Challenges with the tutoring workforce were reported by all parties, with issues of guaranteeing tutor supply in cold-spot areas compounded by schools’ specifications for tutors (for example, being available in-person and at 3:30pm
7. Funding was the most common element of the NTP that survey respondents said should be redesigned. Equally, there was a general preference for the current changes to the model. Of the survey respondents, 30% reported not being able to fund tutoring from ‘business as usual’ budgets after the NTP finishes in 2024.
8. Some reported that the NTP is more effective when tutoring provision is organised at the multi-academy trust (MAT) level.
9. Some education leaders reported a need to increase the professionalisation of tutoring, creating accreditation pathways and otherroutes to building human capital in the tutoring sector.Some education leaders reported a need to increase the professionalisation of tutoring, creating accreditation pathways and otherroutes to building human capital in the tutoring sector Click To Tweet
More findings can be found in our full report.
Drawing on our findings, we produced a set of five design principles that we believe should guide the design and delivery of the remainder of the NTP, but also in-school tutoring policy beyond the programme:
- Scaffolded autonomy. Schools want (and need) autonomy to procure and deploy tutors as they see fit. But to do this effectively they need a constellation of support services around them, which can be gradually removed over time.
- Simple and accountable. Many barriers to the uptake and impact of the NTP relate to overly complex funding and accountability models. Simplification of these elements would attract schools to in-school tutoring.
- Stable and adaptive. Frequent changes to the NTP have undermined its delivery and impact. Consistency over time, while responding to evaluations of the programme for continuous improvement, would resolve this issue.
- Equitable and targeted. The focus of tutoring in schools policy needs to be on reaching disadvantaged young people, without creating an unfair workload for teachers or resulting in exploitative labour market practices with tutors.
- Evidence building and applying. To support the ongoing continuous improvement of the NTP and tutoring in schools policy, rigorous, wide-ranging evaluation must be woven into the fabric of the programme.
We also produced a set of 14 practical, evidence-based recommendations. We organise these recommendations into three phases based on our proposed timescale for delivery: Improve, Embed and Transform.
In order to Improve the impact of the NTP through incremental changes, the DfE should:
1. Immediately commit to an additional year’s funding for the programme up to 2025. Another year of funding could be used to extend the NTP for another year so that it can meet its uptake targets and address the unexpectedly high levels of learning loss among disadvantaged pupils.
2. Maintain a simple approach to reporting and accountability that focuses on disadvantaged pupils. The NTP’s new accountability system must not backslide into a large administrative burden for schools, and the use of ‘name and shame’ tactics should be avoided. In the long term, tutoring spend should fold into existing systems for Pupil Premium accountability.
3. Develop a coherent approach to the use and creation of evidence. The current use of multiple research bodies to evaluate the NTP stymies the sharing of data between bodies. A single research body should be appointed to provide real-time insights into the programme that can be used to make gradual improvements to it.
4. Support current peer learning networks for tuition partners and create new networks for school leaders with responsibilities for tutoring. Networks should focus on sharing effective practice on delivery and capacity building to support disadvantaged pupils. Membership should be opened to providers who are not tuition partners, to support cross-system improvement.
5. Make the NTP significantly more hospitable to remote tutoring. Changing guidance on remote tutoring could significantly increase schools’ access to tutors, especially those in cold-spot areas. In parallel, programme evaluations should seek to understand whether remote tutoring has different levels of impact, and the conditions in which remote tutoring can thrive.
6. Restore and maintain Pupil Premium targets. Pupil Premium targets for the NTP were removed in Year 2, risking the programme losing focus on disadvantaged pupils. Restoring these targets would keep the programme focused on this group.
In order to Embed tutoring in schools in the long term through growing a targeted supply of tutors and improving the quality of in-school tutoring, the DfE should:
7. Commit to central government funding to support tutoring in schools from 2025 to 2030. This would support the creation of a sustainable and impactful ecosystem for in-school tutoring while extending the NTP’s impact in closing the attainment gap.
8. Create a set of ‘Tutor Standards’. Similar to and aligned with the professional standards for teachers and teaching assistants, this would build a shared language around effective tutoring, creating the parameters to guide the training, professional development and performance management of tutors.To improve the quality of in-school tutoring, the government should create a set of 'Tutor Standards' - a shared vocabulary for and understanding of what effective tutoring looks like. This can be used to standardise training and… Click To Tweet
9. Create kitemarks for tuition providers. These kitemarks would act as a legacy of the NTP, serving as a signal in the market to help schools identify quality providers. At the same time, the transparency of the kitemarks would provide a structured guide for how providers can improve the quality of their service.
10. Improve teachers’, leaders’ and governors’ understanding of effective approaches to deploying and working with tutors through weaving content into relevant aspects of the early career framework (ECF), national professional qualifications (NPQs) and other professional learning programmes. This would diffuse knowledge of the effective recruitment, oversight and deployment of tutors in school to leadership.
11. Create a system of capacity-building grants for tutoring organisations, MATs and similar organisations to strategically grow and improve tutoring services. This more direct approach to growing supply in cold-spot areas may include funding large tuition providers to incubate smaller providers, MATs setting up their own tutoring organisations and universities starting to supply tutoring.
In order to Transform tutoring in schools by creating a large self-sustaining supply of high-quality tutors, the DfE should:
12. Explore options for building tutoring as a ‘National Tutoring Service’ for all 16- to 25-year-olds. This would produce a sustainable supply of tutors for schools in the long term while equipping young people with soft skills that can contribute to net economic productivity and growth.The government should explore building a ‘National Tutoring Service’ for all 16- to 25-year-olds. This would produce a sustainable supply of tutors for schools in the long term while equipping young people with soft skills that can… Click To Tweet
13. Create a set of flexible but consistent pathways between the teaching, teaching assistant and tutoring professions. Establishing these routes could help resolve recruitment and retention issues in teaching. It could also develop young tutors’ soft skills, supporting growth in human capital and producitivty at the national level.
14. Support the development of tutoring ‘next practice’ through funding tutoring innovations (including through investment in joint venture partnerships). These partnerships could develop innovative methods for reaching particular groups of disadvantaged students – such as pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) – through school, tuition provider and research evaluator partnerships.
If you’ve got any questions about our report or want to offer your comments on our findings and recommendations, we’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch with the report’s lead author, Baz Ramaiah, at [email protected]