National Tutoring Programme update spring term 2021

The NASUWT has been informed that the NTP will operate throughout lockdown. NTP Tuition Partners are offering online tutoring for disadvantaged pupils at home, as well as continuing to offer support to vulnerable pupils in schools. It is also possible for primary, secondary, special schools and alternative provision to book blocks of tutoring to start later in the year. To date, over 60,000 pupils have been enrolled in the NTP, but places are still available in all regions.

The NTP includes specialist provision for supporting students with SEND, including 17 providers who are able to support students in special school settings.

More detailed information is available on the NTP website.


The National Tutoring Programme (NTP) has been developed to support schools across England that are dealing with the challenges caused as a result of school closures during the coronavirus pandemic. Its aim is to provide additional support to schools to help disadvantaged pupils whose education has been most affected by these school closures. It also intends to provide a longer-term contribution to closing the attainment gap.

The programme launched in November 2020 and has been initially funded to provide subsidised tutoring for up to 250,000 pupils. This amounts to £350m, which is a proportion of the £1 billion of the catch-up funding allocated by the Government with the intention of supporting children and young people to catch up lost time after school closure.

The remaining £650m of funding has been designated as a one-off catch-up premium for the 2020-21 academic year, providing schools with financial support to help pupils make up for lost teaching time.

Catch-up premium

Schools are expected to use the funding for specific activities that support pupils to catch up for lost teaching over the past months. Schools can use the funding in a way they see best to support pupils, based on the differing challenges and context that schools operate in. The Department for Education (DfE) has shared two documents from the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) that it believes may support schools to make the best use of this funding and implement catch-up plans effectively:

Schools will be allocated funds calculated on a per pupil basis, with mainstream schools receiving £80 for each pupil in reception to Year 11. Special schools, alternative provision and hospital schools will receive £240 for each place. This uplift in funding for specialist settings is explained as recognition of the higher per pupil costs these institutions face.

The funding will be paid over three tranches. Schools should already have received their autumn payment based on the latest available data on pupil numbers. The second payment is due to be made in early 2021, based on updated pupil and place data. This payment will take account of the amount paid in autumn 2020. By the end of these two payments, schools should receive a total of £46.67 per pupil for mainstream settings or £140 per place for specialist settings.

The final payment will be provided to schools in the summer term of 2021: a further £33.33 per pupil (mainstream schools) or £100 per place (specialist settings).

The data used for this funding allocation is:

  • for mainstream schools, the 4 to 15 pupil headcount from the October 2020 census;
  • for specialist settings, the 2019 to 2020 academic year place numbers from the published local authority 2019 to 2020 financial year budget returns for local authority-maintained schools will be used, alongside the published high needs place numbers for the 2020 to 2021 academic year for academies and special schools not maintained by a local authority.

As with the pupil premium, the DfE specifies that schools should use the funding available to them as a single total, even though funding is calculated on a per pupil or per place basis. The department also sets out that this funding is only available for the 2020 to 2021 academic year and will not be taken into account when calculating future years’ funding allocations for schools.

School leaders are being expected to be able to demonstrate that the funding is being used to teach a normal curriculum as quickly as possible, following partial or full-school closure. The onus is being put onto governors and trustees to scrutinise schools’ approaches to catch-up from September 2020, including plans for, and the spending of, the catch-up premium.

Development and accessibility of the NTP

A collaboration of five charities have designed and developed the programme - the EEF, Sutton Trust, Impetus, Nesta and Teach First.

The NTP offers two methods of support for schools: NTP Tuition Partners and NTP Academic Mentors. State-maintained primary and secondary schools in England will be able to access these two schemes and use them to best suit the needs of their pupils.

NTP Tuition Partners

Through NTP Tuition Partners, schools can access subsidised tutoring provision from an approved list of 33 providers. Tutoring received through NTP Tuition Partners is subsidised by 75%. Schools can use their catch-up premium funding to meet the remaining 25% cost.

The list of approved Tuition Partners and their cost after the subsidy is published on the NTP web page NTP approved tuition partners and the NTP states that the providers cover all regions of England. The providers deliver one-to-one and small group tuition, both online and face to face. Tutoring will be available in 15-hour blocks, to support best-practice evidence on tutoring. [1]

Schools can decide which Tuition Partner they would like to work with and which of their pupils will benefit most from this additional support. For multi-academy trusts (MATs) interested in accessing tuition for several or all schools with the trust, the approved providers will be able to specify whether they can organise tuition for all schools through one central contact, or if they will need an individual contact at each school.

The EEF will lead on the NTP Tuition Partners programme for the academic year 2020 to 2021.

NTP Academic Mentors

Schools in the most disadvantaged areas will also be eligible to access support through the NTP Academic Mentors. This programme places trained graduates into schools in the most disadvantaged areas, with a view to providing intensive catch-up support to their pupils, allowing teachers in these schools to focus on their classrooms. Eligible schools can request up to two mentors.

The Academic Mentors will not all be qualified teachers, but some may be working towards an initial teacher training qualification or considering a career in the education sector.

While the Government will pay for the mentors’ salary, schools will be expected to contribute the on-costs of these employees, such as their pension. As with Tuition Partners, schools are entitled to use their catch-up premium to fund this. Schools will also be responsible for managing the Academic Mentor.

Teach First will be responsible for the initial delivery of the NTP Academic Mentors, which includes recruitment and training of the mentors. Academic Mentors will receive ongoing training delivered by Teach First, who will also oversee the placement of mentors into schools. Schools therefore need to enquire with Teach First via their Hire academic mentors web page to see if they are eligible to access the programme.

NTP’s rationale for the development of the programme

It has been well documented that there is a substantial attainment gap between pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers, an issue that the NASUWT has long sought to see addressed by successive governments. Since school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is evidence from a range of sources, including EEF [2], that this is likely to have grown significantly.

The NTP reports that there is extensive evidence showing the impact of tutoring to support pupils who have fallen behind [3], as well as demonstrating the potential of one-to-one and small-group tuition as a cost-effective way to support these pupils. The Teaching and Learning Toolkit produced by EEF suggests it can boost progress by up to five months.

Yet tutoring is often limited to the schools and parents who are able to afford it. The NTP has therefore been set up with the aim of helping schools to address this.

Analysis of research conducted by the Sutton Trust for the NTP has highlighted two ‘tutoring gaps’ which the NTP aims to address. These are:

  • the Disadvantage Gap: pupils from the least affluent families are significantly less likely to have been tutored compared to those from the most affluent (18% vs. 43%), a gap that likely widened during lockdown;
  • the Regional Gap: the availability of high-quality tutoring varies widely across England, with many areas unable to offer tutoring. Pupils in London are significantly more likely to have accessed tutoring (50%) than their peers outside the capital (29%).

Concerns regarding the implementation of NTP

Limited funding

The NTP states that while the funding will significantly increase the amount of tutoring available to disadvantaged children, it is not enough to provide support to every disadvantaged pupil in England. While the NASUWT recognises the pressures on funding, it is worrying that some schools and pupils will be able to access the tutoring programme, while others will not.

Furthermore, it is not entirely clear as to how schools will be prioritised, or whether it is purely allocated on order of application.

This is also true for schools who wish to engage an Academic Mentor. While the criteria for schools is clearly set out based on Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index (IDACI) and Achieving Excellence Areas (AEA), the number of schools that will be able to benefit is directly impacted on by the number of individuals who sign up to become Academic Mentors.

Additionally, the NASUWT sees the IDACI as a rudimentary measure of deprivation and will continue to press the Government for a more meaningful assessment of deprivation to be sought, both in the context of the NTP and more widely.

Caps on numbers of eligible pupils

To ensure tutoring is allocated fairly, should demand be very high for the programme, the NTP has stated that it may introduce caps on the number of pupils per school who can receive tutoring. There is no evidence of this happening as of December 2020.

The NASUWT is concerned this will potentially mean schools with large numbers of disadvantaged pupils have arbitrary restrictions placed on them, thereby limiting the number of pupils who can access help. This could further the attainment gap for disadvantaged pupils, even with schools themselves, as some will be unable to receive tutoring if there is a cap on numbers.

Selection of Tuition Partners and tutors

To select the tutoring providers, the NTP reports that applications were assessed against criteria covering safeguarding, quality and impact by a team within the EEF. Every approved Tuition Partner is, according to the NTP, experienced in working directly with schools, with demonstrable expertise to deliver tutoring that complements classroom work.

The full details of the criteria for becoming an NTP Tuition Partner are published on the NTP web page For Tuition Partners.

There are also a number of stipulations for the tutors deployed into schools by the Tuition Partners in schools. The NTP states that tutors go through a ‘well-defined and manualised training programme’. There is no detail on what this training entails.

While the NASUWT recognises that the NTP has clear and comprehensive assessment criteria for the Tuition Partners, and guidelines on the expectations of the tutors themselves, the Union will monitor feedback from members on the Tuition Partners to ensure all suppliers support schools and pupils in the best ways possible.

Fair pay for tutors

Each Tuition Partner sets out the cost of their subsidised rates on the NTP website. What is not as transparent is the level of pay for individual tutors through those providers. There is reference to the fact that some tutors are in fact volunteers, which presumably means they are unpaid.

The NASUWT believes that given the nature of the programme, which is intended to support disadvantaged children in schools, tutors should be fairly rewarded for this contribution. Three hundred and fifty million pounds is a significant sum of money and it should benefit everyone involved in the delivery, not just the organisations who are procuring the tutors.

The NASUWT recognises that the programme has the potential to provide work for supply teachers. However, without clarity over the rates of pay for tutors, and a lack of information on how individuals can become a tutor with one of the approved partners, this option is less viable for supply teachers who are entitled to a level of pay that reflects their highly qualified, professional status.

Lack of clarity over teacher involvement

While the NTP makes reference to the effectiveness of tutoring being greatest when guided by the classroom teacher, and has published a guide to Best Tutoring Practice for Schools (pdf), it does not put into place any processes for this to happen.

The NASUWT is concerned by the lack of clarity over how teachers can lead and shape the way tutors deliver their sessions. It is also unclear as to the involvement teachers will have in identifying pupils who would benefit from tutoring and selecting the Tuition Partner they see as most fitting for the pupils’ needs.

The inverse to this is also worrying: that teachers are subject to additional workload pressures due to unnecessarily heavy involvement in the tutoring.

For those schools utilising either Tuition Partners or Academic Mentors, the NASUWT would expect school leaders to involve classroom teachers in the identification of pupils who would most benefit from this additional support, as well as the ability to set the direction of learning. However, this should not be at the expense of adding to their existing workload or becoming a time-intensive task.

Review of effectiveness

The NASUWT would welcome recommendations from the NTP on how the success of the programme will be assessed. This needs to be more than purely numbers of how many students have accessed tutoring and focus on the impact the sessions have had.

We would also be keen to understand the plans for the longevity of the programme. While the Government asserts that the initial purpose of the NTP is to support pupils most affected by school closures, the NASUWT does not see how ending the programme when the funding has been depleted meets the secondary goal of providing a longer-term contribution to closing the attainment gap.

As part of November’s Spending Review, the Government confirmed that the NTP will be funded for a second year. It has since been clarified that the programme will not receive any new budget, so the additional year is purely an opportunity for any unallocated funds from 2020/21 to be used.

Next steps

The NASUWT will monitor developments of the NTP, as well as its use in schools, regarding both effectiveness and appropriateness. The Union will continue to engage with the Government and bodies who are involved in the delivery of the NTP, to seek answers to the questions it has regarding the programme.

The NASUWT will continue to raise concerns with the Government over the need for a wider, more encompassing strategy to address the full spectrum of lost learning, as well as the attainment gap. The Union would argue that while the NTP has a place and may offer value to some schools and pupils, it is not sufficient to address the historical challenges facing disadvantaged pupils that have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Pension arrangements

National Tutoring Programme roles

The Department for Education (DfE) has clarified that National Tutoring Programme roles are not teaching roles and are therefore pensionable in the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) in circumstances where the employer has been accepted into the LGPS.

National Tutoring Programme roles are not pensionable in the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS). Members carrying out a National Tutoring Programme Role are advised to contact their employer for details of the pension scheme in which they will be automatically enrolled and to contact the pension scheme direct if they have any questions about this.

Members in receipt of a TPS ill-health pension are advised that, even though National Tutoring Programme roles are not teaching roles, they may be incompatible with the continued payment of an ill-health pension and should contact Teachers’ Pensions direct for advice if they are considering undertaking one of these roles.

Catch-up premium roles

Teaching roles funded by the school’s catch-up premium may be pensionable in the TPS, depending on whether their employer is in the TPS. Members who undertake a teaching role in a school which is funded by the catch-up premium should contact their employer to ascertain the details of the pension scheme in which they will be automatically enrolled.

Members should contact Teachers’ Pensions direct if they believe that they have been enrolled in an inappropriate pension scheme during their employment in a catch-up teaching role.

NASUWT guidance about re-employment in a TPS pensionable role following retirement is available in our National Tutoring and Catch-up: Pension Implications Briefing (pdf)on our England Pensions page. For clarification on the impact on individual pension implications, members should contact Teachers’ Pensions directly.

[1] The NTP states that ‘ensuring that tutoring occurs in a sustained block of sessions is a key aspect of delivery, which is likely to result in a greater impact.’