Extra tuition designed to help children in England catch up on learning lost during the Covid pandemic was often “haphazard and poorly planned” and in some cases, disrupted the school day, an independent review by Ofsted inspectors has found.
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The Ofsted review said that while the tutoring given through the government’s national tutoring programme (NTP) was “strong” in just over half of the 63 schools visited, “the quality of tuition varied greatly depending on the school or provider, and most teachers did not know the extent to which tutoring was having an impact”.
Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s chief inspector, said that while she welcomed the NTP as “a much-needed response to the disruption caused by Covid-19”, it was clear that there was “much room for improvement”.
“It is vital that any tutoring is well planned and targeted so that it benefits the pupils who need it most, rather than becoming a disruptive influence on the school day,” she said.
The NTP was launched in November 2020 to provide up to 600,000 state school pupils in England with extra tuition over the following 12 months. It offers schools £650 for every child eligible for free school meals and £450 for other disadvantaged pupils to spend on external tutoring providers.
But the Ofsted review found that while the programme had a positive impact in some schools, “tutoring was often haphazard and poorly planned in others, with no guarantee that it would effectively address pupils’ needs”.
Inspectors also found that the quality of tutoring varied widely, with some providers offering “poor-quality teaching that failed to engage pupils or make good use of their time”.
And they raised concerns that, in some cases, the tutoring was disrupting the school day, with pupils missing out on other subjects or activities to attend tuition sessions.
Spielman said that while Ofsted recognised the “huge challenges” faced by schools in delivering the NTP, it was clear that “much more needs to be done to ensure that tutoring is of consistently high quality and has a positive impact on pupils’ learning”.
She called on the government to provide more support and guidance to schools on how to deliver effective tutoring and said that Ofsted would be carrying out further inspections of the NTP over the coming months.
“We will also be looking at how schools are using other resources, such as the pupil premium, to support pupils’ learning and close the attainment gap,” she said.
Responding to the Ofsted report, a Department for Education spokesperson said that while it recognised that there was “more work to do”, the NTP was “already having a positive impact on thousands of pupils across the country”.
The spokesperson said the department would work with Ofsted and schools to “identify areas for improvement and build on good practice”.
“The NTP is just one part of our wider package of support for schools to ensure every child catches up on lost learning – including an extra £1.4 billion this academic year, one-to-one and small group tuition, dedicated catch-up classes, and new resources developed with teachers,” the spokesperson said.
“We know that some pupils will need more support than others to catch up, and we are working with schools to ensure they have the resources they need to support all pupils to reach their potential.”
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