Children from disadvantaged backgrounds will have access to catch-up tuition sessions in order to make up for teaching time lost to coronavirus, it has been announced.
The new National Tutoring Programme is scheduled to begin next week, and applications are now open for heavily subsidised tuition which could cost schools as little as £50 for 15 sessions.
How does it work and who is eligible?
The scheme is open to children aged between five and 16, and is planned to continue well into next year, with both face to face and online options.
Schools will have to apply on behalf of the children they believe are most in need, and have been told to prioritise disadvantaged children.
The tutoring will be delivered by a mixture of post-graduate students, teachers and volunteers. However, teaching unions have expressed concerns, saying that all tuition should be delivered by qualified teachers.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said that the scheme is “about levelling up those opportunities.”
He explained, “We need to do everything in our power to help pupils make up for any lost time, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“Tutoring provides tailored teaching support to individual pupils and can be transformational in boosting academic progress.”
A group of five independent organisations designed the scheme, which will take its funding from the £1 billion coronavirus “catch-up package.”
Is it enough?
Speaking to the BBC, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, Geoff Barton, said the scheme is "an incredibly complicated way of delivering catch-up support when it would have been far simpler and quicker for the government to have given this funding directly to schools alongside other catch-up money.”
He added, "There is good evidence that small group tuition can be extremely beneficial, but this funding could have been used to support schools in delivering this through their teaching staff who already know their pupils, rather than this system in which schools buy in subsidised tuition from external agencies.”
Deputy General Secretary of school leaders union NAHT, Nick Brook, said, "The scope of the NTP this year appears to be capped at 250,000 pupils - a significant number but still a fraction of the 1.4 million children in receipt of free school meals."