The National Tutoring Programme (NTP) is part of the government’s COVID-19 catch-up response for schools and is funded through the wider education recovery package. The programme aims to support teachers and schools in providing a sustained response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to provide a longer-term contribution to closing the attainment gap. The first year of the NTP – delivered in the academic year 2020 /21 – offered schools access to tutoring via two independent services: Tuition Partners and the Academic Mentoring Programme. This evaluation relates to the first year of NTP Tuition Partners only.
Tuition Partners (TP) was designed to provide additional support to schools and teachers, to supplement classroom teaching, through subsidised, high-quality tutoring for schools from an approved list of Tuition Partners. In the first year of the TP programme there were 33 quality assured Tuition Partners delivering both face-to-face and online tutoring across England.
Tutoring was targeted at children eligible for the pupil premium, however participating schools had discretion to identify which of their pupils they felt would benefit from additional support. Schools selected children to receive up to 15 hours of tutoring in a subject. Tutoring was designed to be delivered mainly in small groups (one tutor to three pupils) or one-to-one for pupils with additional needs. Tutoring was expected to be delivered in schools during normal teaching time, as well as before or after school.
The EEF commissioned an independent evaluation of the TP programme. The evaluation had a Quasi-Experimental Design (QED), meaning that schools who took part in the programme were matched to similar schools who didn’t take part in the programme.
The second pillar of the NTP in 2020/21 was the Academic Mentoring Programme. You can read about the evaluation of this programme here.
Both the delivery and the evaluation of the TP programme were affected by the ongoing COVID pandemic. Unanticipated partial school closures from January – March 2021 meant that many schools paused delivery of tutoring or some moved their tutoring to be delivered online and at home. The programme was also impacted by COVID-19 related absences of tutors and pupils. The evaluation was impacted. Challenges included recruiting schools to the evaluation and Key Stage 2 assessments being cancelled, meaning not all planned analyses could go ahead. Year 11 GCSE examinations were replaced with Teacher Assessed Grades (TAGs). Given the uncertainty around the use of TAGs as a research outcome measure, some of the analysis is considered exploratory and therefore has not been awarded a padlock rating. A more detailed summary of the challenges to the evaluation can be read here.
One of the main analyses in primary schools looked at the effect of TP on pupils eligible for Pupil Premium funding (PP), as these groups could be identified for both TP and non-TP schools. This was done by comparing the progress of all PP eligible pupils in schools participating in TP, to all PP eligible pupils in schools not participating in TP. In this analysis, there was no evidence of the TP programme having an effect on all PP eligible pupils. However, only one-fifth of PP eligible pupils in participating schools were enrolled onto TP in the evaluation sample. This means the analysis was diluted by the attainment of the four-fifths of PP eligible pupils who were not selected for tutoring, making it hard to detect any impact that may (or may not) be present. These findings have a low security rating.
Schools had flexibility to select which pupils took part in tutoring. The implementation and process evaluation (IPE) identified that schools used a variety of considerations to identify pupils for tutoring, including perceived need for academic support. The IPE found that 46% of pupils selected for TP were eligible for PP. The diluted analysis is driven by the extent to which pupils eligible for Pupil Premium were selected to participate in TP, as well as by the total number of pupils who participated in TP in the school. Overall, the number of PP eligible pupils receiving tutoring was low as a proportion of all pupils eligible for PP in the schools on average.
Similar exploratory analysis on Y11 pupils using TAGs found a similar headline finding – there was no evidence of the TP programme having an effect on all PP eligible pupils. However, there was a very high level of dilution in this analysis as well, with only 12% of the analysed sample receiving tutoring for the maths analysis and 9% of the analysed sample receiving tutoring for the English analysis. The evaluators were able to analyse Year 11 TAGs for subsets of schools that selected a higher proportion of PP eligible pupils for tutoring; namely 50% and 70% or more of their PP-eligible pupils. The 70% analysis found a positive and significant impact of TP for both maths and English (equivalent to 2 months additional progress). These results indicate that TP had a positive impact on maths attainment and English attainment of PP eligible pupils who received the programme in that subject. However, it is important to recognise that this analysis was based on a smaller sample of TP schools, and these schools had some different characteristics to the whole sample of schools, so the result should be treated with caution.
The evaluation also found that higher amounts of tutoring had a positive impact on English scores in primary schools, and correlated with better TAGs for Year 11 pupils in maths and English. The IPE involved a large-scale collection of qualitative and quantitative perceptual data, providing a rich account of the delivery and experience of TP in the first year of the programme. It explored the programme’s implementation, reach, perceived quality, perceived impact, and the factors that were perceived to influence outcomes. The IPE found that the majority (74%) of surveyed school leads and school staff were ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ satisfied with the programme overall, and by the end of the programme, the majority of school leads surveyed felt that the programme had ‘helped pupils catch up with their peers’ (81%) and ‘improved pupils’ confidence’ (80%). The IPE contains a wealth of information to support understanding of how to implement tuition well.
The TP evaluation findings are explored in three reports: the primary school impact evaluation, the secondary school impact evaluation (Y11 only) and an IPE report. An overarching summary report integrates and summarises the findings across all reports.
Separately to the NTP evaluations, EEF commissioned and has previously published a series of ‘nimble trials’ evaluating different strategies to reach and engage schools, tutors and pupils in tutoring. Details of these can be found here.
The summary report and primary school impact report were updated in December 2022. The previously published summary report presented the number of primary schools that had at least one pupil with relevant endpoint assessment data. This report now presents the number of primary schools that had at least one pupil with a relevant baseline and a relevant endpoint assessment, which was the sample upon which the analysis was conducted. Updates relate to descriptive information only (rather than outcomes).