Union warns national tutoring programme is threat to supply teachers

A teaching union has warned of the impact of the National Tutoring Programme (NTP) on supply teachers, after the government announced what the Department for Education (DfE) calls a ‘major’ expansion of the scheme.

From earlier this month schools have been able to sign up with this year’s NTP external tuition providers, covering the whole country. These could be existing tutoring providers who have experience working with schools, or organisations such as charities, local authorities or universities who will have designed a new programme to meet the requirements of the NTP. The DfE say this provision is expected to reach over 500,000 students this year. In addition, ‘academic mentors’ are again being placed in selected schools across the country to work in small groups with over 250,000 students ‘most in need of support’. These mentors earn a salary of up to £19,000.

New guidance has also been published to ‘support schools to offer their own teacher-led tuition’, which the DfE estimates will reach over one million students in 2021/22. Funding is also being made available for this purpose, with the DfE saying a total of £579 million would fund schools to ‘develop local tutoring provision’, which will ‘complement the NTP offer’. However schools will be expected to meet the ‘majority of costs’ for tutoring themselves in the longer term. Education secretary Gavin Williamson commented ‘We are boosting the tutoring that is available to pupils so that millions more can benefit from the support they provide and we see a real tutoring revolution take place in our schools’.

But the NASUWT union is warning that a lack of clarity over the rates of pay for tutors working on the NTP threatens to undermine the ability of supply teachers to obtain work ‘at a level of pay that reflects their status as qualified teachers’. The union says this is further exacerbated by the fact that some providers are recruiting volunteers to act as tutors.

Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT general secretary, said: ‘We need a teacher-led education recovery and renewal in order to secure the best outcomes for children and young people from the disruption of the last 18 months. Supply teachers, with their wealth of experience and knowledge, have enormous potential to successfully help children and young people catch up and recover their learning and yet ministers are encouraging schools to make use of a tutoring programme which gives no guarantees that children will be taught by qualified teachers or over the pay those tutors will receive’. He added ‘Children and young people deserve better than catch up on the cheap. Ministers can and should take action to ensure that all tutors are fully qualified and remunerated at the commensurate rate on the national pay scale and that supply teachers are part of the plan for education recovery.’

Jane Peckham, NASUWT deputy general secretary, also commented ‘During the pandemic many supply teachers have been hit with a double blow of a lack of both employment opportunities and access to furlough pay. Without guarantees on remuneration or the qualifications of its personnel, the NTP risks further entrenching downward pressure on rates of pay and undermining employment opportunities for supply teachers.’

A DfE spokesperson said: ‘There are no pay grades for the NTP and no reason for it to have a negative impact on supply teachers. The NTP provides another employment opportunity for supply teachers, who can apply to work as an academic mentor, with a tuition partner or be paid as part of the funding received through school-led tutoring.’

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