The Government’s catch-up programme for pupils impacted by school closures due to the coronavirus pandemic may not be reaching disadvantaged children, the National Audit Office (NAO) has said.
Fewer than half of the pupils who have already started to receive tuition are from low-income families who are eligible for pupil premium funding, according to the NAO report.
‘Raises questions over the extent to which the scheme will reach the most disadvantaged children’
In June last year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a £1 billion catch-up fund to help pupils in England.
The package included £350 million for the National Tutoring Programme (NTP) in order to help the most disadvantaged pupils, alongside £650 million for schools to help children from all backgrounds catch up.
The NTP is now placing academic mentors in schools which serve disadvantaged communities in order to help provide intensive catch-up support.
However, the NAO has said that the demand for academic mentors in disadvantaged areas has “outstripped supply”, with hundreds of schools still not having received an academic mentor despite asking for support.
By February of this year, Teach First had placed mentors in 1,100 schools, but it had received requests for mentors from 1,789 eligible schools.
This meant that more than 600 disadvantaged schools who had asked for a mentor had not received one.
Addressing this issue, Chairwoman of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, Meg Hillier, said the Department for Education’s (DfE) “failure to do its homework” has hit children who were already disadvantaged “the hardest”.
Schools are also being offered subsidised tuition from an approved list of organisations which offer one-to-one and small-group tutoring as part of the NTP.
However, the NAO report found that out of the 125,200 children who had been allocated a tutoring place by February, 41,100 had started to receive tuition – with 44 per cent eligible for pupil premium funding.
NAO said that this “raises questions over the extent to which the scheme will reach the most disadvantaged children.”