News & Insights 27 October 2022

New NTP evaluation reports show a largely positive impact of tutoring on pupil outcomes and in schools

Since the National Tutoring Programme (NTP) was rolled out in November 2020, as a catch-up and recovery programme for the lost learning time following several months of school closures during the Covid-19 pandemic, one major question that has been asked is about the evidence of its impact on academic performance and pupil outcomes nationally.

The NTP was introduced in the 2020-21 academic year to support schools and teachers in providing a sustained response to pupils who fell behind in their studies during lockdowns, especially disadvantaged children in receipt of Pupil Premium. Many in the education sector also believed it could contribute to closing the attainment gap in the long term. The tutoring support in the first year was run via two strands – the Tuition Partners and the Academic Mentoring pillars.

A new independent evaluation conducted by the National Foundation for Education Research (NFER) and commissioned by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has provided some insights into the impact of both the Tuition Partners and Academic Mentoring pillars of the NTP on pupil outcomes for the first year (2020-21). The study sample focused on 167 primary schools for English, 127 primary schools for maths and 1,464 secondary schools for both subjects in the analyses.

As a key Tuition Partner that has extensively advocated for more data-driven and evidence-based insights about the NTP’s reach, progress and outcomes, Action Tutoring welcomes this evaluation report. We believe research into the impact of tutoring is essential in helping us reflect and focus on the core aim of narrowing the attainment gap and giving disadvantaged pupils the requisite support to improve and thrive academically.

Higher sessions impactful

In line with Covid-19 restrictions in 2020, no centralised examinations were held and teacher-assessed grades (TAGs) replaced Year 11 GCSEs. Using that as an outcome measure, the NFER evaluation showed a correlation between sessions attended and overall progress, indicating that pupils who attended a higher number of tutoring sessions were associated with better scores in English in primary schools, and better grades for Year 11s in maths and English. The data showed that there was little progress recorded in primary maths.

In 2021-22, our analysis showed that primary school pupils supported by Action Tutoring achieved expected standards in reading – nine percentage points more than the national average for disadvantaged pupils. Maths results were equally strong, with pupils achieving expected standards ten percentage points more than the national average for pupils facing disadvantage.

Our GCSE results analysis for the year under review also showed marked progress for pupils we tutored in both subjects.

Impact data centred on pupils eligible for Pupil Premium who attended at least eight tutoring sessions with Action Tutoring

Pupil Premium

It is saddening to know that less than half of the pupils supported under the NTP in Year 1 were from disadvantaged backgrounds when a principal objective of the NTP is to support this specific group and ensure the pandemic did not widen the attainment gap. In the NFER evaluation, only 46% of pupils on the programme were identified as PP, compared to Action Tutoring’s measure of 72% of PP pupils supported in the same year.

Targeting tutoring support to disadvantaged pupils should remain a priority to ensure an overwhelming majority are actually those who need the help and cannot afford to pay for it. Together with other education charities, we sent a collective action letter to the Secretary of Education in September expressing concern about the likely mistargeting of the NTP and the urgent actions that must be taken to ensure the core, original focus of the NTP is not lost. These actions include reinstating Pupil Premium targets, committing to additional funding, and reversing plans for subsidy reductions next year.

Independent review of tutoring in schools

The DfE has just published Phase 1 findings of an independent review of tutoring, conducted by Ofsted. This report assessed the progress and effectiveness of the NTP from September 2021 to July 2022, with His Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI) visiting 63 schools to observe and analyse tutoring sessions. 

The findings show that in the majority of schools visited, tutoring was well planned and implemented, with content directly supporting the curriculum covered in the classroom. It also revealed that tutoring was perceived as positive by an overwhelming number of school leaders and staff and the NTP was well received by schools. With pupil attendance being the prime concern of the findings, Ofsted advised that the benefits of tutoring must be touted to parents and pupils to increase uptake and participation.

Tutoring works

Although 2020-21 was an exceptionally challenging year in education for schools, teachers and pupils as the disruption of the pandemic, both evaluations point to the evidence that tutoring works in improving pupil performance. We are deeply invested in the success of the NTP because it has the potential to reach millions more pupils facing disadvantage, who simply can’t afford to miss out on the support.

We support the recommendations made by the NFER and Ofsted for further improvements to be made to the programme going forward. It’s essential we ensure more pupils facing disadvantage are able to access tuition support, there is further investment in evaluation of impact and Tuition Partners and tutors work in partnership with schools to ensure tutoring reaches those in most need and is aligned to classroom learning.

Alongside many other organisations, we are advocating for the NTP to extend beyond 2024 and become a lasting feature of the education system, so that it can have a meaningful impact on closing the attainment gap – which is at its widest in the last 10 years, at the primary and secondary level. Now is the time to elevate the reach and impact of the NTP, based on lessons, experiences and recommendations made by education charities and researchers, to ensure the programme delivers on its intended objectives, all in the best interest of disadvantaged young people.

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