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National Tutoring Programme

Volume 702: debated on Monday 1 November 2021

10. What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the national tutoring programme in improving the educational attainment of pupils in the north of England. (903942)

The national tutoring programme reached 308,000 pupils in 2020-21 and this year it is expanding further to offer high quality tuition for up to 2 million pupils across the country.

I know that the Secretary of State is as concerned as I am about children in my constituency reaching their full educational potential, but I am concerned that only 240,000 enrolled on the national tutoring programme in its first year, that it has only a third of the funding that his own Government adviser put forward for covid catch-up and that funding per pupil will not reach 2010 levels for another three years. Can we see some evidence that the Government’s proposals are working? For example, can we see granular information about how the national tutoring programme is reaching the most disadvantaged children in our communities?

I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for her question. She is always assiduous and follows the evidence. I am also grateful to her for coming to the Department on another matter to do with further education. The academic years independent evaluation is taking place and will assess the programme’s impact on pupils’ educational attainment in all regions, including the north, and we will of course publish that. I want to share with the House some of the latest reported figures on the national tutoring programme. It is going well in all parts of England, and provisional figures from our delivery partners show that so far this year 3,822 schools have engaged with the programme through the tuition partners and academic mentors. The latest reports show that 475 academic mentors have been placed in schools in the most disadvantaged areas of England. On top of this, all schools are sharing the £579 million to recruit their own local tutors.

I would like to thank the School Standards Minister for his recent visit to Burnopfield Primary School in my constituency to look specifically at the national tutoring programme. However, at a recent headteacher cluster meeting, some of the smaller primary school leaders were concerned at the amount of paperwork involved in accessing the scheme. Will the Secretary of State look at the amount of bureaucracy involved, to ensure that the national tutoring programme can reach as many children as possible in every school?

I give a great shout-out to Katie Vickers, the academic mentor that my hon. Friend and the Minister for School Standards met at Burnopfield Primary School. My hon. Friend will recall that when I was vaccines Minister, I was able to cut through some of the bureaucracy and get more retired doctors and nurses to come back and vaccinate the nation. I will happily look again with the Minister for School Standards at any bureaucracy that gets in the way and we will get rid of it.

I welcome the Secretary of State to his post, and I congratulate him and his new team on their appointment. By the end of the national tutoring programme period, nearly 2 million young people will have left school without support, including, it is estimated, more than half a million in the north. Meanwhile, the new cut-price Randstad contract has left schools facing over-complicated bureaucracy and delayed tutoring—although Randstad did manage to award a contract to itself. Is the Secretary of State satisfied with the performance of Randstad’s management of the contract?

I am never satisfied until we have delivered. Ultimately, we can have an arms race about how much we can spend, but it is all about outcomes. When the hon. Lady sees some of the independent evaluation of the programme delivered by my predecessor, she will see that we focus on outcomes, and that is what she should also focus on.

Yes, but tutoring is reaching just one in 16 pupils this year, and the attainment gap is 18 months at GCSE and widening. The Government failed to use the opportunity of the Budget to deliver the investment in education recovery that their own expert called for. Why will the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister not match Labour’s ambition for children’s futures?

All I would remind the hon. Lady is that, if we look at the league tables, England is doing well under a Conservative Government and will continue to do well. If she will only shed the tribal politics and look at the evidence—as I will, and I will present it to this House—then we can get somewhere with delivering real outcomes for the most disadvantaged people in our country, which I hope she cares about as I do.