As schools and teachers prepare for the new school year, the usual feeling of anticipation is likely to be replaced with one of uncertainty. None of us can be certain about what the next few months will bring. For schools, there is still a level of uncertainty about how each pupil will have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Even with the incredible support provided by schools, each pupil will have had a different experience. Given the typical resilience of children and young people, most will be fine, and some will have thrived, but others – and the reality is that these pupils will be disproportionately drawn from disadvantaged homes – will have suffered. For some of these pupils, the priority for schools will be meeting their social and emotional needs. For many, it will be focused on providing extra support with their academic work.
As one of the principal delivery organisations tasked with setting up the Tuition Partners and Academic Mentors pillars of the National Tutoring Programme, we know we have an important role to play in providing additional support to schools to help those pupils whose education has most been affected by school closures.
By making high-quality tutoring available to schools, our aim is to make additional support for pupils’ learning easy to access, effective and complementary to classroom teaching. Across both pillars of the NTP, the first principle in ensuring that tutoring makes a difference is that it must be guided by teachers and aligned with the curriculum. High-quality classroom teaching is the single most powerful lever schools have to support learning. Tutoring funded through the NTP must supplement what happens in the classroom, supporting teachers by providing extra help to disadvantaged pupils who need it, rather than serving as a bolt-on.
Since launching the National Tutoring Programme website for Tuition Partners and Academic Mentors at the beginning of August, it’s been brilliant to see the initial response to that idea. Every day, we are receiving hundreds of registrations, from schools, individuals interested in working or volunteering as a tutor or academic mentor and providers keen to get involved. This level of engagement is hugely exciting and the first step towards achieving the programme’s aim of supporting as many disadvantaged pupils as possible over the next academic year.
For Tuition Partners, the EEF has been allocated £76m to enable schools to access high-quality tutoring from an approved list of tutoring providers, who will all have passed a set of quality, safeguarding and evaluation standards. The funding round for Tuition Partners will open at the end of this month and will begin delivering in schools after October half-term.
Teach First have been allocated £6.4m to fund Academic Mentors, which will give schools in the most disadvantaged areas access to a pool of trained graduates and career changers, who they can employ to support their pupils. These academic mentors will provide intensive learning support, while allowing teachers to focus on delivering lessons.Teach First is currently recruiting for these Academic Mentors, and the first cohort will be placed in schools by October half-term.
These two pillars are focused on primary and secondary schools. The £350m allocated towards tutoring in the covid-catch-up package, also includes £96m to support post-16 settings. And today the Department for Education has also announced up to £9m to fund catch-up support in the early years through the Nuffield Early Language Intervention, a programme to improve language and literacy skills through weekly small-group sessions.
We want to do all we can to make sure we truly make a difference to the lives of those young people who have lost out on learning the most. With the additional – and vital – support provided through the wider £350m and the National Tutoring Programme, we can help close the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their classmates.