News & Insights 17 June 2022

Levelling up tutoring report release in partnership with CfEY

Action Tutoring is proud to have partnered with the CfEY (The Centre for Education and Youth) and two other Tutoring Providers, Third Space Learning and Trinity White Rose Maths, on identifying how the National Tutoring Programme (NTP), one of the most ambitious English educational policies, should be evolved to ensure its long-term success.

Read more about the NTP here

The research draws on the results of a survey of 185 school and trust leaders and teachers (carried out from April to May 2022), as well as 27 interviews with school and trust leaders, senior figures at the Department for Education (DfE), and others with research and policy expertise.  

We are now delighted to share the findings of this research and hope it contributes to effective policy planning in the future.

You can find the full report here

Why is this research important?

Evidence clearly shows that tutoring has the potential to support academic catch-up, close the attainment gap and support the government in raising literacy and numeracy standards in order to meet their announced 2030 education targets. 

However, introducing and maintaining large-scale national programmes in primary and secondary schools can be challenging. Even with the best intentions and foresight, financial and political considerations can be a barrier to effective impact. Our goal is for a successful long term in-school tutoring strategy, therefore it is important that we consider the obstacles and carefully plan future policies accordingly. 

As the NTP draws to the end of its second year, this report comes at a timely juncture for building on what’s already been achieved. Five key design principles underpin the approach of the report: 

  1. 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. 
  1. 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. 
  1. 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. 
  1. Equitable and targeted: The focus of the 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. 
  1. 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. 

Building on this, the report then focuses the recommendations around three key timeframes:

1. Improving the impact of the NTP through incremental changes.

2. Embedding tutoring in schools in the long term by growing a targeted supply of tutors and improving the quality of in-school tutoring. 

3. Transforming tutoring in schools with a long term view, by creating a large self-sustaining supply of high-quality tutors.

Key findings 

Firstly, the research piece brought to light the importance of funding the NTP over a longer period so it can have a bigger impact and achieve its goals. In particular, 70% of respondents said that they believe the NTP should continue for at least a year longer than is currently planned. 

Although schools need tutoring to work as an intervention, they require continuous support in order to better integrate tutoring programmes. The report mentions that for many schools the enrolment process had been a “bureaucratic nightmare’’. 

It is also essential to build a larger and consistent group of tutors that will continue to provide high quality tuition to those who need it the most. This is needed the most in parts of the country where private and in-school tutoring are less common, such as the North East, since parents and teachers were less confident in the value of tutoring as an intervention.

It’s interesting to note that only 6% of the survey respondents said that they do not believe the NTP needs to be changed at all. This clearly shows the urgent need for modifications that will allow the NTP to have greater success. 

Future recommendations 

Schools in deprived areas with financial deficits have been unable to fund the school-level contribution needed to cover the costs of tutoring programmes, as funding changes between years one and two have made the programme feel unpredictable and difficult to plan around for those participating. Therefore, the government must fund the NTP for a longer period of time to ensure it achieves its goals.

The DfE should improve school staff members’ understanding of effective tutoring approaches to deploying and working with tutors, through additional content in the Early Careers Framework, National Professional Qualifications, and other professional learning programmes. 

What’s also needed is for the NTP to prioritise remote tutoring, in order to access more tutors. Remote engagement can be particularly significant for cold spot areas, where tutoring is unavailable.

Finally, despite the current issues the NTP is facing, Levelling Up Tutoring shows a positive attitude towards tutoring. The recommendations mentioned in the report must be implemented rapidly so we can take a step towards closing the attainment gap and create a fairer, more inclusive education system in England. 

Concluding in the afterword, Action Tutoring CEO alongside leaders from Third Space Learning and Trinity White Rose Maths, commented:

While there has been frustration over and criticism of parts of the NTP, we should recognise that a fairer view needs to also commend the speed of action and scale of funding that the DfE put in place in late 2020 when the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on learning and, notably, the attainment gap became clear.

As the programme has evolved, feedback from schools and Tuition Providers has played an increasing role in shaping the development of the programme. This is to be welcomed. The scale, innovation and success that we are all aiming for with the NTP must be shaped by teachers in schools across the country, and the organisations supporting them, who know what real-world success looks like… ​​

We firmly believe that the NTP has the long-term potential to be a once-in-a-generation opportunity to narrow the attainment gap. We are committed to working with schools and the DfE to ensure it can achieve this crucial goal.”