NTP school-led tutoring is helping pupils recover from Covid disruption

Press Release

Thursday 19 October 2023

An evaluation of the National Tutoring Programme’s (NTP) second year has found school-led tutoring is having a positive impact on English and maths pupil outcomes.

The Government’s NTP was introduced in the 2020-21 academic year to help pupils in England recover the learning they missed due to Covid 19 disruption.

NFER evaluated the impact of the programme in the 2021-22 academic year, in which schools were asked to prioritise narrowing the disadvantage attainment gap*.

The programme consisted of three tuition routes:

Tuition Partners (TP): Subsidised tuition to schools from approved tuition partners.

Academic Mentors (AM): Mentors employed by school with the vast majority of their salary subsidised by DfE.

School-led tutoring (SLT): A new route offered in 2021-22 providing schools with a ring-fenced grant to fund locally sourced tutoring provision. This was by far the most frequently used route in the programme’s second year.

The second year of the programme was delivered despite ongoing pandemic-related challenges (such as school closures) and other delivery issues outlined in the Implementation and Process Evaluation (published October 2022).

The study found SLT resulted in up to one month’s additional progress in Key Stage (KS2) and Key Stage 4 (KS4) maths, with some limited evidence that the same route had a positive impact on KS2 and KS4 English.

However, it found no evidence to suggest participation in AM or TP led to improvements in KS2 or KS4 English or maths. This is most likely due to challenges implementing these routes identified in the process evaluation, and methodological limitations.

The report advises against over-interpreting the results because of the complexities of the evaluation.

Dr Ben Styles, NFER’s Head of Classroom Practice, said:

"It is encouraging that more schools and pupils are now participating in the NTP and, while the effect sizes detected were small, it is a positive step forward to detect a measurable impact on pupil outcomes.

“Schools now need research that demonstrates which implementation models of tutoring are most cost-effective. This would allow them to select a tutoring solution with greater confidence; particularly important when there are other effective ways in which they might choose to spend their pupil premium funding.”

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said:

“This report shows the positive impact the National Tutoring Programme has had in supporting pupils as we recover from the pandemic, with almost four million tutoring courses started through the programme so far.

“NTP has levelled the playing field, with pupils eligible for free school meals accounting for nearly half of course starts, meaning tutoring is no longer reserved for those that can afford it.

“This support goes hand in hand with our focus on driving up school standards over the past 13 years, including revolutionising how pupils are taught to read through phonics, with our children now the best readers in the West.”

Nick Brook, CEO at the social mobility charity Speakers for Schools and Chair of the DfE Strategic Tutoring Advisory Group, said:

“The vast majority of tutoring that is provided through the National Tutoring Programme is delivered by schools. It is therefore extremely encouraging to see good evidence that this is having a positive impact on pupil attainment.

“NTP set out to ensure that high quality tutoring would become accessible to pupils most in need of support, not just available to families that could afford it. Alongside expert teaching, the evidence is compelling that tutoring is one of the best-bets we have to help narrow the attainment gap.

"From talking to school leaders, it is clear that there are significant differences in how individual schools have approached tutoring. In this last year of the NTP, it is critical that we gain better insights into what works and what doesn't, so that all schools can have the information they need to ensure this additional support is having the greatest impact.”

The report also says:

  • Further research is needed into how to optimise the delivery of tuition so that guidance can be offered to schools on which type of implementation is most effective.
  • To help close the attainment gap for disadvantaged pupils, the Government should consider reintroducing targets for the delivery of tutoring to disadvantaged pupils, and using funding to incentivise the selection of these pupils for tutoring to ensure they are prioritised for additional support.
  • This study suggests that more hours of tuition can lead to greater benefits, whevidence from EEF (2021) also indicates that around 30 hours of tuition delivered over approximately 10 weeks has the greatest impact. We recommend the NTP guidance reflects these findings and that this is communicated to schools.
  • Future research on tutoring should collect data on tutoring routes and subject, to allow for continued monitoring of effectiveness by route and subject to further develop our understanding of ‘what works’.

* Disadvantage attainment gap: The difference between the mean scores of pupils eligible for free school meals and those of their peers not eligible for free school meals.