The attainment gap has long been a persistent challenge, but over the past decade, promising progress has been made. These small, but important, gains have been the result of a concerted effort by school leaders and teachers, supported by positive developments such as Pupil Premium funding and an increase in the availability and use of robust evidence.
We know the incredible support schools have provided to pupils during the COVID-19 closures, however even with this support the hard-won gains in narrowing the attainment gap are unfortunately likely to be reversed. When schools reopen this week, leaders and teachers will face an array of new challenges; most known, but many not. Many teachers will have spent much of their summer planning and setting up new structures, ready to meet the physical, academic, social and emotional needs of their pupils – most of whom will not have stepped inside a classroom for several months.
The scales of tutoring access have been weighted against the pupils who stand to benefit most from its impact.
We know that high-quality classroom teaching is the most important factor for supporting the learning and development of pupils, but we cannot leave the burden of recovery to teachers alone. Many supportive interventions can have a positive impact, but the evidence for high quality tutoring is among the strongest, with consistent robust findings of additional progress for pupils, including the most disadvantaged. However, the scales of tutoring access have been weighted against the pupils who stand to benefit most from its impact, with tutoring disproportionately provided to pupils whose parents can most afford to pay for it. While for schools who do fund tutoring for their pupils, it can be difficult to identify high-quality providers.
National Tutoring Programme (NTP) Tuition Partners, a £76million pillar of the NTP, will provide highly subsidised tutoring to our pupils who need it the most. It will, through the NTP Tuition Partners Quality Criteria, ensure that the tutoring offered is high-quality and consistent with the evidence about best-practice tutoring. The evidence tells us that to result in a positive impact tutoring should align with the curriculum of the school, target the areas that a pupil is struggling with the most, and be delivered by trained and well qualified tutors.
A brief guide is now available to support schools to plan for the NTP.
Another key feature of high-quality tutoring is having systems in place to foster a positive three-way relationship between pupils, tutors, and schools. Before starting tutoring, schools should consider planning: how they will use data and their professional expertise to select the pupils who are likely to benefit the most from tutoring; how they will communicate about tutoring to ensure pupils are motivated to engage in the sessions; and, how to provide input on the focus of tutoring sessions. A brief guide is now available to support schools to plan for the NTP. The guide summarises the best available evidence for how to use the NTP Tuition Partners resource and make the most of this new offer.
The NTP Tuition Partners funding round opened on the 28 August and will close on the 18 September. So far, we have seen a positive response from the tutoring and wider education sector. The NTP Tuition Partners team is now gearing up to assess the application we receive, and we are excited to have this opportunity to ensure that only the best providers are approved to partner with schools in support of their recovery efforts. Approved Tuition Partners are due to be announced from the end of October and tutoring will be offered to schools from November.
There is no getting around the difficulties and uncertainties of the coming year. Yet we know that schools are places of optimism and we know that NTP Tuition Partners is poised to play a role in supporting our pupils – harnessing the expertise and energy from across the education sector to prevent our most disadvantaged pupils from missing out.