The tuition funding challenge: why thousands of schools are missing out

This year, schools have access to a number of different funding pots that they can use to help pupils catch up on the learning lost due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

As well as the existing pupil premium, recovery premium, 16-19 fund and National Tutoring Programme, the government has now introduced the School-Led Tutoring Grant – an additional pot of money that gives schools £203 per student for 60% of their pupil premium cohort, to use on either teacher- or tutor-led tuition. 

However, despite this significant bump of extra funding, a recent survey of almost 5,000 teachers we conducted via TeacherTapp reveals that thousands of schools are missing out on using this cash – with 72% of headteachers stating that they’re not using all the tuition funding they have available to spend this year.

Why aren’t schools taking advantage of extra funding?

The results from our research point to a few key blockers, the first of which is lack of awareness. Of the headteachers surveyed, the vast majority (87%) said that they’d heard of the National Tutoring Programme, however this dropped to just 31% for the 16-19 fund. 

Looking specifically at the School-Led Tutoring Grant, while two-thirds of heads had heard of the new funding pot, awareness was significantly lower among SLT members and middle leaders, at just 32% and 12% respectively.

Another challenge that came through clearly in the research is lack of understanding. Less than a third of headteachers said that their understanding of the funding options available was “good” or “very good”. Meanwhile, two-thirds (66%) of headteachers and 50% of SLT members said that they found official funding documentation “confusing” – suggesting that more straightforward guidance could help. 

Lastly, it looks like a significant proportion of schools are simply too stretched to prioritise researching funding options. 21% of the headteachers surveyed said they “didn’t have enough time” to seek out additional funding sources – perhaps an unsurprising finding given that so many schools are shouldering a tough burden with increased pupil testing requirements and staff shortages.

What’s the impact of unused funding on pupils?

Research from the Education Policy Institute (EPI) shows that even before Covid, disadvantaged pupils were already 18 months of learning behind their better-off peers by the time they took their GCSEs – and 2021 analysis reveals that the pandemic has only widened this gap.

As the government weighs up a return to a “normal” in-person exam format this year (with caveats that teacher assessment will still play a role), it seems that additional support for disadvantaged pupils will be more important than ever to tackle the attainment gap – which is one reason why this extra government catch-up funding for tuition is so vital. 

Tutoring is one of the most effective interventions schools can use to reinforce classroom learning, build pupil confidence and address learning gaps. Reflecting on the impact of MyTutor’s online tuition at Bohunt Education Trust, Gary Green, who leads on disadvantaged student support, commented:

“Covid was a big challenge for the trust last year. Lockdown had a disproportionate effect on the most disadvantaged pupils, particularly with regards to access to devices and bandwidth, increasing the challenges of children with more significant barriers.

The tutoring has provided a significant capacity to support pupils with the greatest gaps within a broader suite of approaches, so while it’s just one intervention, it’s a very good intervention. There are success stories across every academy. Most notably, where attendance is higher, success is greater. Looking at the average progress made across schools in our first year based on lessons attended, pupils who attended MyTutor lessons made at least 3x the progress of a control group.”

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Simplifying the funding headache

As our survey clearly shows, having such a wide range of funding options has caused confusion for many school leaders. The good news on the new School-Led Tutoring Grant is that it’s paid out automatically in instalments by the government, so there’s no complex application process to deal with, beyond providing basic financial data. 

Schools will receive £203 per student for 60% of their pupil premium cohort, which needs to be used to fund tutoring support, primarily for disadvantaged students. This is calculated to cover roughly 75% of the cost of tutoring, with schools making up the remaining 25%.

The grant can be used at the school’s discretion as long as it’s to provide tuition, whether by sourcing tutors locally, by training teaching staff, or by choosing an online tutoring provider like MyTutor.

Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School used MyTutor to deliver 293 online tutoring sessions to GCSE and A-Level pupils last year, with Deputy Headteacher Mr C. Morris commenting on the positive impact for both pupils and teachers:

“Online tuition has been a real boost to our underachieving children, and it’s taken a lot of pressure off those teachers who are busy running after-school clubs, interventions and revision sessions over the summer.
As a high-performing school, we were apprehensive to start working with a new provider, and we wanted to make sure the quality of tutoring successfully complemented classwork. 

Our experience with MyTutor has been smooth: we found the platform easy to navigate, and each of our subject teachers got their own login to access weekly tutor reports on pupils’ progress. The outcomes were particularly striking as the programmes coincided with the end-of-year exams: the MyTutor pupils involved have come out with higher grades.”

How to get started

If you’d like to learn more about available funding options, you can find everything you need to know about the School-Led Tutoring Grant in our detailed guide.

You can also leave your details to get more info on how to get the maximum impact for your students from your available funding this year.

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