Renew funding for tutoring programme to tackle attainment gap, ministers told

Sian Hopkins
Thursday, February 22, 2024

A 50 per cent reduction in funding for the government’s national tutoring programme (NTP) could widen the attainment gap between students from disadvantaged families and their peers, the Sutton Trust has warned.

The programme has supported 27 per cent of pupils on free school meals. Picture: Monkey Business/Adobe Stock
The programme has supported 27 per cent of pupils on free school meals. Picture: Monkey Business/Adobe Stock

A new report from the organisation warns politicians that the attainment gap has “widened considerably” since the pandemic and poses a threat to social cohesion and student wellbeing.

A key factor behind the attainment gap is the access middle class pupils have to private tutoring, the Sutton Trust says.

More than 39 per cent of secondary school pupils from wealthier families had received some form of private tutoring whilst in education, states the report.

It warns that government’s flagship tutoring programme, the NTP, which was introduced to tackle lost learning for the most disadvantaged following the pandemic is due to wind down from the summer with funding for schools delivering tutoring dropping to 50 per cent of current levels in the 2023/24 academic year.

The report notes that around 27 per cent of students on free school meals have benefitted from the initiative since its launch.

“Not only are one-to-one and small group extra tuition proven to raise attainment, but are also highly cost effective strategies that have resulted in students gaining four to five months of additional progress whilst in school.

“The government's failure to renew this programme would reverse all this continued effort,” the report states.

Sir Peter Lampl, founder of the Sutton Trust and founder of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: “The difference in education outcomes between low-income students and their better-off peers – known as the attainment gap – has widened considerably since the pandemic. There needs to be renewed focus on tackling it.

“The next government needs to do much more for the most disadvantaged youngsters. This means increasing funding for low-income pupils, access to tutoring for the long-term, and to do more to take hunger out of the classroom.”

The Sutton Trust is calling for politicians to set out “a long-term national strategy” that aims to close the attainment gap.

This includes a renewed focus on the NTP and a long-term funding plan to enhance its benefits as well as “re-balancing funding back towards schools serving the most disadvantaged communities and restoring pupil premium funding to at least 2014/15 levels”.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Education standards have risen sharply across the country, with Ofsted ratings up from 68 per cent to nearly 90 per cent since 2010 - and pupils’ performance is some of the best globally in international league tables.

“School funding is rising to more than £59.6 billion next year - the highest ever level in real terms, with record levels of pupil premium funding.

“We have significantly increased support for disadvantaged pupils through the £1 billion National Tutoring Programme and by doubling the number of children receiving free school meals since 2010.”

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