Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, responds to the Department for Education press release about plans to publish data on each school’s take-up of the National Tutoring Programme.
“Aside from the bizarre decision to send a letter to schools on a Bank Holiday Monday, this announcement smacks of political grandstanding designed to distract from the mess the government has made of the National Tutoring Programme.
“When the Department for Education set out guidance for this year’s National Tutoring Programme it did not mention that it would be publishing some sort of league table on take-up and sharing this with Ofsted. This is effectively a new accountability measure which has been introduced at the eleventh hour in a rather underhand manner.
“The National Tutoring Programme is not straightforward to say the least. It comprises three ‘tutoring routes’ and comes with a complex set of conditions attached. The funding is also only a partial subsidy with schools expected to meet the rest of the cost of tuition through other budgets.
“This is at a time when schools have been extremely hard-pressed coping with extra costs generated by the pandemic such as supply cover for Covid-related staff absence.
“In addition, one of the routes – the tuition partners scheme which provides funding for subsidised private tuition – has been so beset with problems that it has been belatedly abandoned by the government, but not before a number of schools spent a great deal of time and energy trying to make it work.
“Schools have also been under huge pressure for large parts of this academic year coping with high levels of pupil and staff absence caused by Covid which will inevitably have affected their recovery programmes.
“All of this means that take-up is bound to be variable. The government could and should have provided a recovery programme which was simple and adequately funded instead of the chaotic and lacklustre programme over which it has presided.
“The decision to publish data feels very much like an attempt to shift the focus away from its manifest failings and on to schools.”