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Pupils in England will have to wait until the winter to access the “catch-up” personal tutoring Boris Johnson promised would take place over the past summer, with headteachers warning the extra support will arrive too late for most children who need it.
In June, the prime minister promised there would be a “huge catch-up” programme during the summer for pupils disadvantaged by the coronavirus outbreak, but it’s now emerged schools will have to wait until November to access the government’s £350m national tutoring programme (NTP), while some tutors will only begin arriving in schools during the spring term.
“In the short term, the tutoring programme is unlikely to figure in many schools’ plans for ‘catch-up’, simply because additional support will probably arrive too late for most,” said Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of the school leaders’ union NAHT. “It appears that the tutoring programme will only start ramping up in spring 2021. The cavalry may simply arrive too late to be of help to many schools as a response to the immediate crisis.”
In November, headteachers will be presented with different types of “catch-up” tutoring services – but only if the school is prepared to meet 25% of the cost of this provision from its own budget.
Schools in deprived neighbourhoods will be also offered a partially-funded “academic mentor” who will work full-time in the school, tutoring disadvantaged children and providing pastoral support. Some of these mentors will be newly qualified teachers, but others will be graduates with no formal teacher qualifications – just two weeks of training.
Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the teachers’ union NEU, said this meant there was a danger that disadvantaged children would actually end up spending less time with a qualified teacher, because they would be taken out of class to be tutored by an unqualified academic mentor. “That raises massive issues around quality control.”
She thinks the money should have been given directly to schools. “I don’t understand why the government is sponsoring this model, it can only be an ideological belief in the private sector to deliver. They’ve gone for an untried, untested model which builds delay and dysfunction into the system.”
Dr Paul Heery, CEO of White Hills Park Trust, a multi-academy group of schools in Nottinghamshire, said it would take school leaders time to navigate the bureaucracy of the new programme and its many different, complex options for supporting disadvantaged pupils. “I think it’s very likely we won’t have anything effectively up and running until the new year, when there’s an urgency here. It also feels needlessly bureaucratic and expensive.”
He said the government’s attitude smacked of a “lack of trust” in school leaders. “We know our students, we know where the gaps are, we can make sure that any additional support fits in with the work they are doing in their regular classes. If we were trusted with the additional funding, we could target it where it’s most effective.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Our £1bn Covid catch-up package will tackle the impact of lost teaching time as a result of the pandemic, including a £650m catch-up premium to help schools support all pupils and the £350m National Tutoring Programme for disadvantaged students.
“Headteachers and school leaders are best placed to make decisions about their pupils and which of them need the most support, which is why they will have the flexibility to decide how to spend the premium in their best interests. They could spend some of this funding on summer provision if they wished, with full guidance provided by Teach First. Our catch-up plans extend beyond the summer, providing a long-term package of support to make sure every single child can get back on track.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Boris Johnson’s catch-up tutoring ‘will arrive too late’ for pupils who need it most | Education