Highlights: Committee inquiry report on education recovery

7 June 2023

Today, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has published its inquiry report on Education Recovery in Schools in England. The report assessed the value and effectiveness of education recovery programmes in schools based on written and oral evidence.

Following the disruption to education by the Covid-19 pandemic with multiple school closures, the Department for Education (DfE) introduced a number of recovery initiatives to help pupils and schools to catch up, most notably, the National Tutoring Programme (NTP).

The Committee’s inquiry assessed the DfE’s management of the recovery programme, the effectiveness of the NTP in meeting its objective, and if the scheme was achieving value for money.

The report found that the DfE did not fully appreciate the ‘pressures schools are under as they seek to help pupils catch up’ with evidence of persistent issues of funding constraints, growing mental health needs among pupils and challenges with teacher recruitment and retention.

As one of the education charities that submitted written evidence to this inquiry, we believe in the potential of the flagship recovery scheme, the National Tutoring Programme (NTP), to help reverse the Covid-19 pandemic disruption in education. 

However, we believe that this progress can only be achieved if the NTP is mainly targeted at disadvantaged pupils, tuition delivery is of high quality, funding is increased and outcomes are properly monitored.

Swift action to close the attainment gap

The report revealed that the Department for Education believes it will take a decade to return the attainment gap – which is at its widest in ten years at primary and secondary levels – to pre-pandemic levels. 

“The 10-year timeline to witness pre-pandemic attainment gap level is too long and stands to ruin the life chances of millions of pupils across the country”

Susannah Hardyman, founder and CEO of Action Tutoring

It recommended that the DfE publish a plan setting out how it will reduce the disadvantage gap as quickly as possible and the expected trajectory, building on good practice.

Without swift action to consolidate and implement multiple recommendations from this report and many others to improve the NTP, there will be far-reaching consequences of learning loss to this generation in schools.

It recommended that the DfE publish a plan setting out how it will reduce the disadvantage gap as quickly as possible and the expected trajectory, building on good practice. Without swift action to consolidate and implement multiple recommendations from this report and many others to improve the NTP, there will be far-reaching consequences of learning loss to this generation in schools.

High absence rate among the disadvantaged

In the autumn and spring terms of 2021-22, the average absence rate for all pupils was 7.4%, compared with 4.5% for the same terms before the pandemic in 2018-19. For disadvantaged pupils, the rate was 10.4% in 2021-22, compared with 7.2% in 2018-19.

It is alarming that persistent pupil absence continues to pose a significant challenge to schools and the well-being of pupils, especially the disadvantaged. Without pupils attending school, their outcomes are unlikely to improve.

Our evidence to the Education Select Committee on persistent pupil absence contained helpful recommendations to tackle the issue including:

  • Sharing drinks and snacks during tutoring sessions to reduce hunger
  • Letters and text reminders to parents about upcoming sessions in the day
  • Parent information sessions about tutoring and its benefits
  • Incentives such as vouchers if pupils attend the majority of tutoring sessions
  • Certificate presentation and awards in assembly at the end of programme
  • Integrate attendance into the positive behaviour management system such as gaining points for their ‘house’ through attendance

The report charged the DfE to develop a better understanding of why disadvantaged pupils have higher rates of absence than others and take targeted action to reduce absence rates among them.

“Continuing to invest in ensuring the most vulnerable pupils show up in the classroom is critical to breaking the cycle of low attendance rates currently. Persistent pupil absence will give rise to a surge of problems in the future for young people if the root causes are not addressed.

Susannah Hardyman

Funding constraints for schools

Although the steep subsidy cut for the NTP has been reversed, schools are still grappling with funding constraints and budget squeezes. Schools that are struggling to pay 40% of tutoring costs this academic year will still struggle to make up for the 50% next year.

Additional funding commitment is needed long-term to ensure tutoring is sufficiently embedded in the education system widely and particularly for pupils facing disadvantage.

Increasing take-up of NTP

It is discouraging that 13% of schools did not take up the NTP and missed out on the benefits of subsided tutoring. The DfE must ramp up its efforts through a campaign to win the hearts and minds of parents and ​conscientise schools on the value and moral imperative of channelling the NTP funding towards those eligible for Free School Meals.

The report urged the DfE to do more to understand why some schools are not taking part in the National Tutoring Programme and take more effective action to increase participation.

We believe the Department should work with tuition providers with demonstrated impact to expand into cold spots and areas with low uptake to ensure that every disadvantaged child in the country, regardless of where they live, can access high-quality tutoring.

Applying recommendations

The recommendations set out in the Committee’s report also include progress reports on measures for 2030 attainment targets and funding intervention when schools struggle to bolster NTP uptake.

If the proposed solutions are applied, they will have a meaningful impact on closing the attainment gap and reversing the damage done by the pandemic’s disruption to education. The NTP can elevate its reach and impact to ensure it delivers on the intended objectives of the scheme, all in the best interest of disadvantaged young people.

New research shows glaring inequalities in tutoring

9 March 2023

Since the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted education in March 2020, tutoring has expanded significantly to help address the lost learning time. With schools shut down for months throughout multiple waves of the pandemic, the National Tutoring Programme (NTP) was introduced as a way to augment learning and help pupils, mostly those facing disadvantage, to catch up.

A new report, Tutoring: the new landscape, published by the Sutton Trust today has thrown more light on how the Covid-19 pandemic has shifted the dynamics of tutoring and the persistent inequalities underlying its delivery and impact.

The report details the changes seen in both private and school-based tutoring, in the aftermath of the pandemic and examines tutoring impact, using the latest data from the Ipsos’ Young People Omnibus and recent COSMO studies.

Tutoring expansion

The data reveals that private tutoring is at its highest levels since 2005, with 30% of young people aged 11-16 receiving private tuition, up from 27% before the pandemic. Though many schools had been using the intervention prior to the introduction of the NTP, the government’s roll-out played a significant role in its growth. Before the pandemic, 10% of secondary school leaders reported tutoring was their priority for Pupil Premium spending but by 2022, this figure had more than tripled to 34%.

About 52% of young people agreed that their progress in school suffered as a result of COVID-19, with about 24% of young people reporting to have received tutoring from their school in the 2021/22 school year, up from 18% in the previous pre-pandemic year.

The significant expansion mirrors Action Tutoring’s delivery, which has more than tripled in reach today, compared to the 2019-20 academic year, in response to the rising demand for learning support during the pandemic.

Socioeconomic differences

The report also demonstrates how in-school tutoring, through the NTP, has helped to increase access to tutoring for pupils who typically would not be able to afford it.

According to the COSMO data, 32% of pupils from the most well-off households by income received private tutoring, compared to 13% for the worst-off. However, this trend is dramatically different when looking at the take-up of in-school tutoring through the NTP. About 32% of those in the worst-off households reported taking up extra tuition in school, compared to 22% in the most well-off.

Thanks to the expansion of in-school tutoring, the proportion of pupils accessing any form of tutoring is now almost level between the most and least deprived, with 39% of those from the most well-off households accessing tutoring, compared to 37% of those from the worst-off. 

The report shows how the NTP is allowing a much wider group of pupils to access tutoring, and if issues with its targeting and delivery quality can be addressed, it holds the potential to level the playing field between the most and least disadvantaged in the long term.

Geographical disparities

The report also showed the stark regional difference in the use of private tuition, with 46% of pupils in London reported to have had private tutoring, compared to 21% in Wales and 16% in the North East. London at 27% is substantially ahead of other regions in tutoring rate, compared to under 12% in the North East.

This finding reflects the existing inequalities in the geographical distribution of private tutoring across the country, however, the introduction of the NTP tipped the scale in the favour of pupils who couldn’t afford it in these areas.

The data shows that regions with the lowest rates of private tutoring, such as the North East, East Midlands, and Yorkshire, have the highest rates of in-school tutoring take-up via the NTP.

Applying recommendations

As a Tuition Partner that existed long before the NTP and advocated for its introduction, we are in full agreement with the recommendations in the report including establishing the NTP for the longer term, stricter targets for disadvantaged young people, cancelling the subsidy reduction, improving quality of content and expanding to more remote areas.

The real long-term gain of the NTP is in closing the widening attainment gap and that can only be achieved if it is embedded permanently in our education system. Many disadvantaged pupils are in need of tutoring support, and making the NTP a permanent fixture will reap long-term benefits to the nation, rather than it being a stopgap measure in education recovery efforts.

Also, re-targeting the NTP more at disadvantaged pupils is the key way to tackle the attainment gap. Reinstating and enforcing Pupil Premium targets that were scrapped by the Department of Education and introducing incentives for uptake will help keep the focus on disadvantaged pupils and ensure accountability.

The report backs our call for the NTP’s regional expansion to more remote or ‘cold spots’, where tutoring is lacking. The capacity of Tuition Partners can be supported to expand our reach to underserved areas and deliver high-quality academic support nationally, especially in hard-to-reach areas.

The report’s recommendation for the planned subsidy reduction to be rescinded is consistent with our ongoing advocacy efforts for the funding to be maintained or increased, as schools continue to battle with budget squeezes. There’s a real risk that without additional funding, rates of uptake in schools will drop sharply upending the gains made to level the playing field.


There is no doubt that the NTP has widened access to disadvantaged pupils, who would otherwise not be in a position to afford it.

We are at a point in our education history where the NTP could significantly narrow the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their better-off peers.

The recommendations in the Sutton Trust report, if applied to the NTP, will be game-changing to reversing inequalities in education across England, benefitting the life chances of thousands of pupils.

Our 2021-22 Impact Report demonstrates the effectiveness of tutoring in improving outcomes for disadvantaged pupils

1 February 2023

We have released our 2021-22 Impact Report, with the aim of highlighting the scale, and impact of our tutoring programmes in our mission to unlock the potential of disadvantaged young people and help tackle the attainment gap. The report details the growing expansion in our tutoring delivery to hard-to-reach areas, the relative improvement in the outcomes of disadvantaged pupils receiving our tutoring support, and the challenges of Covid-19 on education.

In the 2021-22 academic year, we supported the highest number of pupils in the charity’s history, with 6,159 pupils receiving 67,800 hours of tutoring, delivered by our volunteer tutors. A total of 586 pupils received tutoring support in both maths and English.

Through our inspirational volunteers, we are devoted to positively transforming the future prospects of pupils facing disadvantage who need our support the most, in a challenging climate of stretched school budgets, high pupil absences, the widest attainment gap in a decade, and the rising cost of living, among others. We’ve expanded geographically via our virtual programmes to new areas including Portsmouth, Corby, Chester, Middlesex, and Rotherham.

Susannah Hardyman, founder, and CEO of Action Tutoring

Key highlights of the Impact report include:

  • 2,345 volunteer tutors delivered tutoring in partnership with 147 schools
  • Compared to the 53% of disadvantaged pupils who passed GCSE maths nationally, the report shows that 72% of disadvantaged pupils tutored by the charity passed their GCSE maths – despite these pupils having been through two challenging years of pandemic disruption and being at risk of not achieving a passing grade.
  • Our analysis shows that primary pupils supported by the charity were more likely to achieve the expected standards than other disadvantaged pupils across the country — by 8 percentage points in maths and reading.
  • Pupils who took Action Tutoring sessions in Year 10 were more likely to pass in that subject at GCSE, compared to other Action Tutoring pupils who did not — 11% more likely in English and 27% more likely in maths.
  • 69% of pupils Action Tutoring supported were eligible for Pupil Premium funding – a government grant given to reduce the attainment gap for disadvantaged pupils

According to the Department for Education, the attainment gap is at its widest in a decade at both primary and secondary levels. Tutoring remains one of the tangible solutions to help narrow that gap, as our Impact Report effectively shows.

Volunteer tutoring is at the heart of the substantial impact of Action Tutoring in the last year, as it seeks to bolster access to equitable and inclusive education. Since officially registered as a charity in 2012, about 11,500 dedicated volunteer tutors have supported over 26,000 primary and secondary school pupils.  The impact report is released on the heels of our receipt of The Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Volunteering Award in December, which recognised the service and impact of its inspiring volunteer tutors on disadvantaged young people across England.

Against the backdrop of the long-term challenges from the pandemic, the report also draws attention to the significant impact of Covid-19 on education and how it has hit disadvantaged young people the hardest. We are dedicated to reaching more disadvantaged pupils by partnering with schools and ensuring tutoring is embedded into the education system to give all pupils facing disadvantage, the opportunity to succeed academically.