When thousands of pupils are missing school, tutoring can offer the opportunity of a new trusted adult in the lives of children and young people

Despite the remarkable efforts of our teachers and education leaders, who heroically adapted their lessons for online learning, we lost tens of millions of hours of valuable classroom time during the pandemic. And we know that disadvantaged children were most affected.

Sir Kevan Collins, the government’s own adviser, acknowledged that children needed £15 billion to bridge the educational gap created by the pandemic. But the recovery programme that Sir Kevan called for, was just not delivered.

What was established was the National Tutoring Programme and the 16-19 Tuition Fund. The programme itself was badly implemented. It encountered numerous challenges, from ineffective outsourcing, tortuous application processes, tutor shortages and it fell drastically short of the size it should have been. But despite all of its failings it managed to achieve some positive outcomes. Tutoring when implemented correctly, has proved it’s worth time and time again.

This Government claims it is led by the evidence and there is plenty of research into the effectiveness of tutoring. The Sutton Trust says that the attainment gap has widened considerably following the pandemic and that 10 years of progress has been wiped out. It argued that “The potential of harnessing tutoring to narrow gaps is evident”.

And work by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) concluded an average impact of four months’ additional progress over the course of a year with small group tutoring. They also recognised the particular benefits tutoring can bring to disadvantaged children.

They said “Studies in England have shown that pupils eligible for free school meals typically receive additional benefits from small group tuition” and that stands to reason. Allowing a teacher to focus on the needs of a small number of learners and provide teaching that is closely matched to that pupil’s individual understanding is going to reap greater rewards than teaching a larger number of students.

And we know tutoring works best when it is in small groups because it offers the opportunity for greater levels of interaction and feedback compared to whole class teaching.

Public First’s research has shown the impact that tutoring has had on GCSE pass rates and overall grades in key subjects. 62,000 additional pass grades in GCSE English and Maths were achieved due to government funded tutoring during the 2021/22 and 2022/23 academic years.

But tutoring is an intervention which impacts pupils across the grade spectrum; providing 430,000 grade improvements in total, with 220,000 in Maths, and 210,000 in English. The long-term economic impact of this in terms of earning potential is significant. So too is the very real impact that strong foundations in numeracy and literacy have on people’s lives.

We should also acknowledge the many other ‘spillover benefits’ that tutoring brings. These speak to many current concerns in our education system. 85% of parents said tutoring had positively impacted their child’s confidence, with 68% saying it had improved attendance. CoachBright has recently published its impact report showing that tutoring can reduce persistent absence by 11%.

At a time where thousands of pupils are missing school, tutoring can offer the opportunity of a new trusted adult in the lives of children and young people, and gives them a new way to engage with their education.

And the bottom line? Well for every £1 spent on tutoring, £6.58 in economic returns is generated. So, the benefits are felt not just by those receiving the tutoring, they benefit our whole economy and our whole society.

Given the wealth of research it was particularly disappointing when no new money was announced in the Budget to allow the scheme to continue past the end of this educational year. As a result, schools and colleges have two options. They can try to fund the scheme from their own meagre budgets – something almost all will find hard to achieve. Or they can scrap it altogether. And that would be a travesty.

Liberal Democrats believe in tutoring. That is why Liberal Democrats would offer a “Tutoring Guarantee” for every disadvantaged pupil who needs extra support, recognising that tutoring is most effective when we allow headteachers and college leaders to decide themselves how to run the scheme.

Tuition can really be a life changing intervention. I hope the Government will reconsider and continue to fund both the NTP and 16-19 Tuition Fund beyond the end of this academic year.

Munira Wilson MP

Munira Wilson is the Liberal Democrat MP for Twickenham, and was elected in 2019. She is also the Liberal Democrat Education, Children and Young People Spokesperson.