Top 5 reasons why schools are dropping out of the tutoring programme

New survey data has today revealed that 58% of senior school leaders do not think tutoring is a long-term solution to closing the attainment gap for disadvantaged pupils.

The National Foundation for Educational Research’s (NFER) ‘Tutoring sustainability: Understanding the videos of school leaders’ report showed that views on the cost-effectiveness of the government’s National Tutoring Programme (NTP) are split. 45% believe the programme is not cost-effective, while 42% do.

Issues with NTP funding arrangements are the main reason schools are stopping delivery of the programme, but only 46% of senior leaders agree providing tutoring would be their top priority if more funding was available for supporting disadvantage pupils. 

The ability to source suitable tutors, administrative burden and time required to implement the NTP were also labelled as ‘barriers to sustainability’ as they are reducing take up and/or causing drop-out from the programme. 

The report gathered the views of senior leaders from primary and secondary schools in England. This included those who are currently participating in the NTP, have previously participated in the NTP, and have never participated in the NTP.

The top five reasons given by senior leaders for dropping out of the National Tutoring Programme were:

  1. Reduced subsidy (55 per cent)
  2. Annual funding arrangements for the NTP made it difficult to forward plan (35 per cent)
  3. Difficulties sourcing suitable tutors (28 per cent)
  4. Administrative burden required to access the funding was too high (27 per cent)
  5. Reporting requirements for the funding were too burdensome (23 per cent)

Dr Ben Styles, NFER’s Head of Classroom Practice and Workforce, said: “School leaders mostly believe the NTP is helping disadvantaged pupils, but many feel this support comes at too high a cost in terms of finances and administration.

“Tutoring is not yet embedded in schools. Long-term financial support is needed alongside reductions to the administrative burden on staff.

“Leaders would also benefit from much more notice on changes to funding arrangements, so they can forward plan and budget properly.

“Overcoming these barriers is vital if tutoring is to win the hearts and minds of schools and be seen as a sustainable way of helping to close the attainment disadvantage gap.”

The study also found that more than half of all senior leaders surveyed (61%) believe that other types of support are more effective than tutoring for improving attainment amongst disadvantaged pupils, including 42% of senior leaders planning to continue the NTP next year.

The results also found that nearly two thirds of the 52% of senior leaders currently using the programme are planning to continue using it in the next academic year, with 76% currently using the NTP believing it is improving the attainment of their disadvantaged pupils.

James Bowen, assistant general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “This reflects what our members tell us: that tutoring can have a positive impact, particularly for disadvantaged pupils.

“But school leaders remain very concerned about falling subsidy levels and question whether the government is committed to the programme in the longer term. 

“School budgets are incredibly tight, some are at breaking point, and that makes finding the additional money required to run the programme extremely challenging for many. 

“As this report shows, the vast majority of schools dropping out of the NTP do so for financial reasons. If the government are serious about making this work, they need to signal that they will invest in tutoring properly and for the long term.”

The survey also found that while the majority of senior leaders currently using the NTP feel it has allowed them to offer support to more disadvantaged pupils, almost half report their school only offers tutoring during normal lesson time.

Among numerous recommendations, the report calls on the government to explore how financial support can be made to schools over a longer period; provide schools with more notice about funding arrangements for new programme to allow them to forward plan, and work with schools and tutoring organisations to understand their requirements for tutors and consider how best to recruit and retain tutors.

Read the full report here.

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