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£134m tutoring cash clawed back (and will fund teacher pay)

Ministers have clawed back £134 million in unspent tutoring money from schools – and have agreed with Treasury bosses to keep the cash to fund the teacher pay grant.

Government data published yesterday revealed schools did not spend nearly 40 per cent of the £352 million National Tutoring Programme funding given to the sector last year.

This is mostly because to access their allocations, schools had to stump up 40 per cent of their tutoring costs.

About 60 per cent of mainstream schools underspent on their allocations, Schools Week analysis shows. For special schools, this rose to 97 per cent.

The data relates to the first year schools were given tutoring cash directly. Despite this, tutoring take-up has slowed.

Last year, Department for Education used some of an estimated £240 million underspend on its flagship catch-up scheme to fund the teacher pay grant. It was meant to be returned to the Treasury.

‘A deep sense of unease’

DfE told Schools Week it has again agreed to keep the cash to go towards its school teacher pay rise funding. Officials have also been cutting back on schemes to plug the gap this year.

Nick Brook

Nick Brook, chair of the DfE’s strategic tutoring advisory group said many people will “share a sense of deep unease” it is being reallocated to fill DfE budget holes.

“We are facing the largest crisis in education for a decade. The attainment gap stands at a ten-year high, and schools face rising levels of unmet need. It therefore seems utterly perverse to be taking money earmarked for children, in this way.

“The hole in the DfE budget is of the government’s making. By failing to provide Treasury funding for pay promises made, DfE have been forced into a cycle of cuts to programmes and abandonment of successful initiatives.”

Julia Harnden, funding specialist at ASCL school leaders’ union, added “it’s something at least that the money hasn’t been returned to the Treasury, but what a shabby way this is of funding an education system”.

“The NTP grant can’t be accessed by a lot of schools because they don’t have enough money to commit the funding required for the subsidy.”

Take-up of tutoring falls

Separate data on tutoring take-up this year was also published on Thursday. It showed just 50.1 per cent of schools have taken part so far this year, compared to 65.7 per cent at the same time last year.

Susannah Hardyman
Susannah Hardyman

Susannah Hardyman, chief executive of Action Tutoring, one of Department for Education’s quality assured tutoring organisations, said the decrease “is unlikely to be a lack of need for tutoring, but rather a strong indicator of budgets struggling to match” the 50 per cent subsidy this year.

Half of pupils tutored so far were disadvantaged, compared to 45.5 per cent last year.

In new guidance this week, DfE said it will also continue to collect data on tutoring as part of the termly school census to “understand and build evidence on the delivery of tutoring in schools”.

A DfE spokesperson said: “We have always been clear that any unused funding would be recovered and we have reinvested that money into our schools to help fund this year’s historic teacher pay award.”

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