Private Tuition Trebles During School Closures, As Parents Pay To Catch Their Kids Up

As the government announces a tuition scheme for the most disadvantaged pupils, figures show some children have had access to private tutors for months.

The use of private, online tutors has trebled during the coronavirus pandemic, HuffPost UK can reveal, as the government announces a National Tutoring Programme to commence in autumn.

The government scheme, worth £350m, is designed to help the county’s most disadvantaged pupils “catch up” once the school term resumes.

But parents able to afford tutoring have been using private companies throughout the school closures.

The online tutoring platform MyTutor told HuffPost UK its customer base has grown by three times during the pandemic.

Demand for tutoring for Key Stage 2 pupils in particular is now 11 times higher than before school closures, while tutoring for university students is five times higher.

“Since schools closed we’ve seen a surge in demand for online tuition,” Nicola Anderson, chief marketing officer for MyTutor tells HuffPost UK. “We mainly support children at secondary level, but since school closures the demand from primary school parents has tripled.”

Maths is the subject most in demand – accounting for one third of all tutorials – followed by English and Chemistry. Anderson believes the motivation for parents employing private tutors has changed during the pandemic.

“Rather than preparing their kids for GCSEs and A Levels, the focus now is to keep their kids on track for the next stage in their education,” she says. “Whether it’s making the leap from GCSE to A Level or continuing progress as they go into an exam year, parents are keen to stop any new learning gaps from forming while the kids are at home.”

The government’s National Tutoring Programme is due to commence in schools in England in Autumn. Under the scheme, schools will be able to access “subsided tuition” for disadvantaged pupils, from an approved list of tuition providers. Schools in the most disadvantaged areas of the country will also be able to employ trained graduates, to offer extra “catch-up support” to pupils at school.

The programme is targeted at pupils who usually receive pupil premium, but school leaders “will be able to exercise their professional judgement to determine if tutoring is the right support for each pupil”.

The National Tutoring Programme (NTP) is worth £350m, while a further £650m will be given to schools to spend as they see fit (including on tutoring) to help make up for missed education. The numbers sound high, but the latter national pot of £650m equates to £91 per pupil, according to School’s Week, and some are concerned the figure won’t got far enough to help all children.

It’s key to note that tutoring under the NTP will be subsidised by 75% and not free. Paying the remaining 25% is at the school’s discretion and the bill may sometimes fall to parents, meaning some pupils will still face financial barriers.

“A school can buy a session that would normally cost £50, for £12,” the Educational Empowerment Foundation explains. “Schools are also free to use additional catch-up funding, announced by the Department for Education in 2020, to pay for the remainder of the cost.”

The Sutton Trust, which was one of the groups calling for tutoring support, has praised the latest government scheme, labelling it “a huge step forward” for the most disadvantaged.

“When it comes to schooling, Covid-19 has done huge damage, at speed, to our children’s prospects, putting their futures in danger. Many pupils have fallen significantly behind in their learning. These pupils come disproportionately from poorer homes,” Sir Peter Lampl, founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust and chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation said in a statement.

“There is strong evidence that high-quality tuition is a cost-effective way to enable pupils to catch up. While it is certainly no silver bullet, access to tuition will be key to supporting the work of teachers in mitigating the impact of school closures in the coming months and years.”