Debate

A turning point for tutoring? The debate that brought our mission to the House of Commons

21 March 2024

This week, the House of Commons held a Westminster Hall Debate on tutoring provision in England. The debate itself is unquestionably a positive step. Politicians from across party lines acknowledged the transformative impact of tutoring. They highlighted its ability to close the attainment gap and boost pupil confidence. Action Tutoring was highlighted specifically for its work by MP Paul Howell.

Quote from Paul Howell (Conservative MP for Sedgefield): "Action Tutoring’s analysis shows that 65% of disadvantaged pupils pass their maths GCSE after attending at least 10 tutoring sessions with the charity. Action Tutoring pupils were nearly 13 percentage points more likely to pass maths GCSE than other disadvantaged pupils nationally. Those are significant interventions. I could continue, but what I want to say is that Action Tutoring’s work is indicative of so much of the valuable tutoring provided by volunteers and others. We must celebrate that work."

MP and Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Education, Munira Wilson, proposed the debate. She proceedings arguing for the continuation of government-funded tutoring programmes for disadvantaged children. Quoting research from The Sutton Trust, Public First, and the Education Endowment Foundation, Ms Wilson urged the minister for education to “do battle with his Treasury colleagues” and find funding for tutoring.

Quote from Munira Wilson (MP for Twickenham, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Education): "Under-18s in England must retake GCSE English and maths if they do not achieve a grade 4 pass. In 2023, that resulted in a staggering 167,000 students having to retake maths and 172,000 resitting English. When combined, that is the highest number of retakes in a decade. We are setting those children up for repeated failure unless different help and support is provided."

Much of our advocacy work, alongside that of our colleagues from Get Further and The Tutor Trust was mentioned. Multiple case studies and the letter to parliament signed by over 500 schools all reinforcing the point that stakeholders including pupils, parents, and teachers all support continued investment in tutoring programmes.

Quote from Jonathan Gullis (Conservatve MP for Stoke-on-Trent North): "Education is the absolute bedrock to levelling up. It is the bedrock to making sure that life chances can be achieved. I have no fiscal rules when it comes to education, because I believe that if we shove all the money there, we will have better outcomes on health and work, fewer people needing to use the welfare state, better home ownership, better wages, and less poverty in our country. Education is at the epicentre of achieving that, and we should therefore be pouring money into the sector."

Shadow Minister for Education, Catherine McKinnell, criticised the government for neglecting the National Tutoring Programme (NTP) despite its potential benefits. She highlighted the significant learning gaps caused by the pandemic, especially for disadvantaged pupils. Despite improvements to an initially flawed NTP, schools likely can’t afford to keep it going due to a lack of continued funding.

Quote from Catherine McKinnell (Labour MP for Newcastle upon Tyne North, Shadow Minister for Education and Schools): "The Institute for Fiscal Studies has found that schools funding in England is already not increasing as fast as the cost pressures schools are facing. That means that the poorest schools are likely to struggle the most to find the cash for tutoring, and that our most disadvantaged pupils will miss out."

In his response, the Rt Hon Damian Hinds, Minister of State for Education, defended the decision to end funding for the NTP. Stating that the Government believes tutoring remains important and schools will continue to be able to use pupil premium funding to support it. This is a sentiment that was not supported by many members present.

Quote from Damian Hinds (Conservative MP for East Hampshire, Minister of State for Education): "Although the national tutoring programme was always a time-limited programme post-covid, tutoring will continue to play an important role and we know that the evidence shows that tutoring is an effective, targeted approach to increase pupils’ attainment."

What now?

Action Tutoring remains firmly committed to providing access to quality tutoring for all pupils who need it. We are actively exploring alternative funding options, including increased philanthropic support, to keep costs low for schools and continue offering our services.  However, this cannot replace the long-term, sustainable funding that is needed to truly embed tutoring within the education system.