Tutors International's Adam Caller Responds to Funding Announcement
OXFORD, UK: On 30th November 2020, the Government announced that the £350 million of funding for the National Tutoring Programme (NTP) will extend over two years, instead of one, as initially promised.
Boris Johnson announced the NTP in June. He stated that it would commence in September 2020 in order to provide support for the 2020/21 school year. The aim of the NTP is to provide personal tuition for the most disadvantaged and affected students. It is an attempt to help them compensate for any gaps or delays in education caused by COVID-19 disruptions. This was set to cost £350 million for a year’s NTP provision.
The Department of Education has since declared that the NTP will extend into 2021/22, but with the same £350 million budget set for the one year. This will mean stretching the funding across two years, therefore potentially halving the financial resources used to deliver it. Furthermore, as the logistics of putting it in place have come to light, it will likely not be in full effect until Spring 2021 at the earliest.
Adam Caller is the founder of Tutors International, a former teacher and educational consultant. He surmises that the initial one-year funding budget extending into a projected second year, could be more deliberate that the government are letting on:
“I would imagine that the Government were aware that implementing this extensive scheme during unprecedented circumstances would mean that it could never have been ready in time for the proposed September 2020 launch. It’s likely that they rushed into announcing the NTP to pre-empt public pressure and look as if they were taking action on COVID-induced schooling disruptions. Rolling out the programme in such an underprepared and haphazard way will mean that by the time it actually comes into effect, they will have covered themselves for next year’s consequences as well. The time it’s going to take to get this programme running properly, the chances are that the £350 million will not even be able to be fully spent next year, let alone this year.”
What is a "Qualified" Tutor?
Mr Caller is curious and a little sceptical about how the Government formed the NTP as a whole:
“When the Government announced that they would be using “qualified tutors” to operate the NTP, I was doubtful, but above all, curious. I wanted to know where the government was going to get “qualified” tutors when there is no current qualification to be a tutor. There was mention of a training course but never any details. The use of ‘qualified’ and ‘professional’ as modifiers for tutors are notoriously wishy-washy in the world of tuition. It's too often self-proclaimed, subjective and ambiguous. There is not currently a way to be a qualified tutor, so we tend to look at other ways of measuring qualification, such as having a teaching degree.
"Some entities do offer specific tutoring courses, but these are unregulated. Their ‘qualifications’ have no value in a general context. Moreover, we have to take experience into account. Did the Government set a teaching hours minimum for the tutors they will be using? We don’t know. In summary, they haven’t exactly been transparent about what specific measures and qualifications they’re using to elect suitable, professional, qualified tutors.”
Time for Chartered Tutors
This could have been the opportunity to introduce a much-needed chartered Tutor status. Mr Caller supposes, it still could be.
“We don’t yet know if the Government intend on providing standardised training for NTP tutors. If they do, we don’t know what the content or quality of that training would look like. It has always been difficult to discern who has the training and experience to be a high-quality qualified tutor. The closest we have is using qualified teachers – it’s a decent measure of suitability and expertise, but not perfect. Tutoring and school teaching are ultimately different jobs, and therefore require different skillsets.
"I’ve been calling for the creation of a serious professional status for tutors for years, something akin to the RIBA for architects or the GMC for doctors. This seems like the perfect time to develop one. I have been told that the Charter covering the College of Teachers can be extended to tutoring. Why not now, when the country needs tutoring to be professionalised properly? I would like to publicly state that I would be happy to be part of the consulting panel for such a development and I can propose colleagues from other companies who would have invaluable input too.”
Tutors International's Experience
Elite private residential tuition service, Tutors International, has 21 years’ experience of providing high-quality private tuition. They saw a sharp rise in demand as soon as lockdown came into effect. They know first-hand the logistics and importance of providing quality tuition for students. Adam Caller further outlines why the NTP will likely fall short of the standards he deems necessary for effective high-quality tuition:
“I’ve spoken with colleagues and associates in the tutoring industry. These are some of the leading experts on tuition in the UK. None of them were consulted in the process of developing the NTP. It calls into question, who has been consulted? The government have approved MyTutor and Pearson as providers, along with several other companies. The Department of Education made no public statement about how they selected these. They also have not outlined what criteria they used to approve or reject tuition firms. It appears that the volume of tutors in any one company was prioritised over the quality of the service.”
A Missed Opportunity
Personal tuition has proved invaluable in this last year. For those able to afford private home tuition, it has been a crucial constant during the disruptions. The Government developed the NTP as an initiative to help pupils who wouldn’t ordinarily have access to personal tuition. The quality of that tuition and its methods for implementing it remains to be seen. This said, overextending the funding and rushing out a relatively unregulated programme, seems like a sure-fire way to deliver a subpar service, particularly one that hasn’t even been comprehensively outlined, verified, or rigorously tested.